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Gardner to let judge rule on DUI charges
Trial of county commissioner won't go to jury

PLEASANT GROVE -- Utah County Commissioner David Gardner will allow a judge to determine his fate, rather than a jury.

Gardner is scheduled to stand trial in one month for allegedly driving drunk during a strange string of events on a rural road.Pleasant Grove Justice Court Judge Brent Bullock set a July 16 date for the trial. Gardner's attorney has requested that Bullock alone determine whether the commissioner is guilty or not guilty of driving under the influence of alcohol, a class B misdemeanor. A jury will not be impaneled.

Gardner said Tuesday he was unaware of the July 16 trial date and could not say why his attorney requested a bench trial and not a jury trial.

"I don't know the answer. I'm leaving all that junk up to my attorney," he told the Deseret News.

Gardner's attorney, Mike Esplin, earlier said he intended to request a change of venue to a jurisdiction outside the county. He also said he planned to file a motion to suppress evidence in the case.

But Esplin didn't file any motions before the June 4 deadline Bullock imposed in May.

The case was moved from the Utah County Justice Court to avoid a conflict of interest. A special prosecutor, Juab County Attorney David Leavitt, was appointed for the same reason.

The two-term Republican commissioner, 49, was arrested March 22 in a remote area west of Spanish Fork en route to a meeting with south county mayors in Salem. Police say he ran his vehicle off the road, rupturing his gas tank and igniting a brush fire near Palmyra. Gardner suffered burns to his feet trying to stomp out the fire.

Gardner maintains he saw the blaze as he was driving by and tried to put it out using his car as a fire break.

Police officers on the scene administered field sobriety tests after smelling a strong odor of alcohol on Gardner. The commissioner originally told police he had 2 ounces of vodka with lunch, police reports say. He later said he took a drink from a hitchhiker whom he had picked up not knowing what was in the cup.

Leavitt said the test showed Gardner's blood-alcohol level was at or above the legal limit of .08 percent. He has refused to release the actual blood-alcohol results.