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For week ended November 14, 1999 Posted 24 Feb 2001

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Gardner pleads no contest

Summarized by Kent Larsen

Gardner pleads no contest
Deseret News 12Nov99 D2
By Edward L. Carter: Deseret News staff writer

PLEASANT GROVE, UTAH -- LDS Church member and Utah County Commissioner David J. Gardner pleaded no contest on Friday, ending nine months of legal uncertainty and positioning. In the March 22nd incident that led to the plea, Gardner lost control of his car, ended up in a field which his car set on fire, and burned his feet trying to stomp out the flames. Blood-alcohol tests showed that Gardner was over the legal limit.

However, while both of the two blood-alcohol tests given to Gardner showed that he was legally intoxicated, the results differed significantly, allowing Gardner's defense to attack their credibility. This weakness allowed the case to be settled. "If you have two blood tests that deviate so drastically, then you've got a problem with one of the tests," said Juab County attorney David Leavitt, who prosecuted the case. But Leavitt is confident that Gardner was, in fact, intoxicated, "In my judgement, if Mr. Gardner had immediately been arrested and taken to the first hospital we would be having a very different result."

Gardner's no contest plea is recorded on the books as a conviction. But a condition of the plea requires that the conviction be withdrawn and the case against him dismissed if he has no further alcohol-related offenses in the next nine months.

Gardner will also pay a $300 fine, be on probation and continue alcohol-related counseling as part of the plea.

Critics in Utah County maintain that Gardner got a sweet deal, letting him off with a clean record and allowing him to stay in denial about a personal problem, "I don't think with the hitchhiker story, the fire and the blood alcohol level, a Geneva Steel worker would've got the same treatment," said Utah County Democrats chairwoman Nancy Woodside. "I think it is a different standard. I think that's obvious to anyone who looks."

Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 Kent Larsen · Privacy Information