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Gardner faces more hurdles

Prosecutor aims to block bid to end probation

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PLEASANT GROVE — Juab County Prosecutor David Leavitt wants to block a move by David Gardner's attorney to end the Utah County commissioner's probation related to a driving under the influence charge.

A Pleasant Grove Justice Court clerk confirmed Friday that Provo Attorney Michael Esplin has made a motion to withdraw Gardner's no-contest plea and dismiss a drunken-driving charge filed against Gardner in March 1999.

Leavitt told the court by fax Thursday he objects to the motion to withdraw and dismiss.

During the probationary period, Gardner has passed several tests to verify that he has complied with the drinking ban, including a test ordered just days ago by Leavitt.

On Wednesday, Gardner was charged with disorderly conduct by Springville Police Lt. Dave Caron stemming from an incident July 29 in which Gardner was accused of roughing up a neighborhood youngster who had insulted Gardner's son.

Leavitt has said he believes Gardner's actions and arrest violate his probation that requires he not be found guilty of breaking any laws during the nine months.

The latest incident comes just two weeks before Gardner's probation is technically over on Aug. 12.

Bullock has not reviewed the response and will not be back in town until Tuesday.

Gardner was arrested last year after he drove off the road in the south county area on his way to a meeting. Police allege that heat from the car ignited a brush fire. Gardner said the fire was already burning when he pulled off the road. Gardner received severe burns on his feet from trying to stomp out the fire. Police and fire crews responded to the area after Gardner placed a call from a nearby dairy farm.

A police report says Gardner appeared so disoriented and nonsensical that officers administered field sobriety tests and took him to a local hospital for questioning. He was subjected to blood testing and then arrested.

Officers have said Gardner's car and breath smelled heavily of alcohol. Gardner said a hitchhiker who shared an alcoholic drink with him also spilled alcohol in the car.

During his probationary period, Gardner was photographed leaving a state liquor store in Orem after purchasing vodka. He told the Deseret News he was buying the vodka for a high-profile client who needed carefully monitored weaning from alcohol addiction.

Gardner is a licensed family therapist who maintains a limited practice while he serves a member of the three-member County Commission. He also teaches an abnormal psychology class at Utah Valley State College.

Gardner has resisted calls by some fellow Republicans to resign from the commission. Supporters say the slightly eccentric and always colorful commissioner has served the county well. Gardner is midway through his second term of office as a commissioner.

Pleasant Grove Justice Brent W. Bullock, who accepted the plea arrangement in Nov. 1999, fined Gardner $300 and imposed a nine-month probation that restricts Gardner's behavior and subjects him to random blood and urine testing. Bullock has requested a response to Esplin's motion from Leavitt. Leavitt was asked to act as a special prosecutor in the case by Utah County Attorney Kay Bryson to eliminate any conflict of interest concern.

E-MAIL: haddoc@desnews.com