Saturday, June 16, 2007
Daskalos Cleared of DWI Charge
By Lloyd Jojola And Jeff Proctor
Journal Staff Writers
Jason Daskalos smiled and patted his attorney on the back Friday as he was acquitted of DWI and other charges.
"The jury finds you not guilty of reckless driving. The jury finds you not guilty of driving while intoxicated," Metropolitan Judge Kevin Fitzwater told the Albuquerque developer at 7:26 p.m.
"I feel great," Daskalos said after a round of exuberant hugs with family members in the courtroom. "I feel wonderful. I never had any doubt. ... I feel like the truth came out today."
The six-member jury received the case about 6 p.m. and deliberated less than an hour and a half before reaching a unanimous verdict.
Robert Gorence, Daskalos' attorney, was equally pleased with the verdict.
"I was confident," he said, "and all the facts came out today."
Taking the stand
Daskalos took the stand in his defense Friday the second day in the case that at one point teetered toward a mistrial and included a fractious exchange between the defense attorney and a prosecution witness.
Albuquerque police officer Josh Otzenberger testified that he saw Daskalos reach a speed of about 70 mph while driving his Porsche through the Vista del Norte neighborhood in the northeast part of town the night of Aug. 25.
That led to a pursuit by the officer, and Daskalos was found at a nearby home, where he showed signs of intoxication, police said.
Daskalos' version of the story differed considerably from the officer's.
He wasn't traveling at the high speed the officer said he was, Daskalos said. He wasn't chased through the neighborhood, he said, and he didn't speed through a stop sign.
"I did roll the stop sign," he admitted.
Daskalos told jurors he had a glass of wine with dinner three or more hours before, but no other alcoholic drinks until having two vodka and cranberry drinks after arriving at an acquaintance's Vista del Norte home for poker night.
The day's testimony began when APD officer Gerald Shelden, who investigated the DWI, said he took Daskalos to the North Valley police substation after Daskalos was arrested on a DWI charge. The officer said Daskalos had performed poorly on some field-sobriety tests.
Daskalos took a breath test to measure his alcohol level and a result of 0.09 percent was posted two times, Shelden testified. The defense, on the other hand, maintained that the drinks Daskalos had after driving caused the results.
Daskalos was hauled that night to APD's BATmobile. A police officer Daskalos knew was later accused of sneaking Daskalos out of the BATmobile though that incident wasn't germane to the case in trial Friday.
Based on a pre-trial decision, talk of the BATmobile incident was deemed off limits. But during Friday testimony, Otzenberger touched on the incident, which led Fitzwater to ask whether the defense wanted to seek a mistrial.
Gorence, in an interview, said he felt Otzenberger "deliberately tried to get that out" even though he was told not to, which led to a testy exhange between the two men during a trial recess.
Gorence also told reporters that Otzenberger had pulled him over a week ago Tuesday possibly to harass him. Gorence said he was given a warning ticket for not changing the address on his driver's license.
Otzenberger said he saw Daskalos walk into the home just before he approached; Daskalos said he had been there for 15 to 20 minutes, which is when he had one drink and almost finished off another before the officer tripped off the alarm on Daskalos' car to draw him outside.
Daskalos said Otzenberger was "aggressive" when he first approached him, that he grabbed him by the neck, told him he was going to be arrested for reckless driving, used the "F-word" and derisively described him as a "rich kid."
Otzenberger denied that type of exchange took place.
Prosecutors were not without their ammunition.
Assistant District Attorney Allison Michael pointed out that Daskalos told two officers that he had not been drinking, even though that was not the case even by his own testimony. He was, as she charged, trying to stick with that story at that point.
She got him to admit that he could have been exceeding the speed limit in the subdivision.
Gorence tried to raise doubts about the accuracy of the field-sobriety tests. But state prosecutor Tamara Ewing countered, getting Shelden to say that Daskalos also failed some "mental aspects" of the tests, such as not following directions.
Daskalos' defense began earlier in the day with testimony meant to challenge some of the police statements.
The day included testimony from Jason P. Gross, the resident of the home where Daskalos was arrested. He, among other things, said Daskalos had two drinks at his house before the alarm to his car sounded, and Daskalos was confronted by police.