PROVO — Attorneys in the DUI case of Utah County Commissioner David Gardner said Monday they finally have settled the venue for a trial of the two-term Republican's 1999 drunken-driving charge.
Fourth District Judge Lynn Davis granted a motion to have the case transferred to Carbon County upon request of the Carbon County Attorney's Office and Gardner's defense attorney, Mike Esplin.
Davis took very little time in granting the motion on Monday.
Outside of Provo's 4th District Court, Carbon County Attorney Gene Strate said he was pleased that the motion was granted, adding that typically cases are transferred to the county that is prosecuting.
Gardner was absent during the brief court hearing, but Esplin said he is satisfied with the case being moved to Carbon County, mainly because it avoids any conflicts of interest.
Gardner was charged with driving while under the influence — a class B misdemeanor — in March 1999.
According to police reports, Gardner told police he had a drink of vodka with lunch that day — but later said he took a drink from a hitchhiker he had picked up earlier.
Gardner originally pleaded no contest to the charge in Pleasant Grove's Justice Court as part of a plea-in-abeyance agreement. Gardner was told that if he violated no laws in a nine-month period the charge would be dismissed.
The deal was revoked when Gardner was convicted of disorderly conduct for allegedly berating a 9-year-old neighbor boy.
Gardner appealed the justice court ruling, which prompted the case to begin anew in district court.
Because Gardner is one of the top elected officials in Utah County, local law enforcement sought another county to prosecute the case.
Initially, Juab County Attorney David Leavitt accepted the case, but later backed out under political pressure.
Esplin said he agreed with Leavitt that seeking a non-Republican to prosecute the case would eliminate any perception of back-door politics within the Republican ranks.
Strate, a Democrat, agreed to take the case in March and said he believes the case will finally be handled in Price.
Esplin said he and Gardner plan to appear in a 7th District courtroom for an initial hearing soon, adding that Gardner will not have to be arraigned a second time.