Liquor store clerks receive $500 fine for selling to visibly intoxicated Lindsey Ward
A pair of liquor store clerks must pay more than $500 in fines after selling alcohol to Lindsey Ward minutes before she caused a fatal accident that killed two people on Colorado Highway 9 last year.
Avran LeFeber and Cody Moral were working at Breckenridge Market & Liquor on the afternoon of the crash and were convicted on misdemeanor charges of selling alcohol to Lindsey Ward while she was visibly intoxicated. The alcohol that LeFeber and Moral sold Ward didn’t contribute to the subsequent crash, but the court ultimately determined that the two men knew she was drunk at the time of the sale and should have refused her service.
“(LeFeber and Moral) did go beyond what clerks are obligated to do,” said Judge Edward Casias, who handed down the sentences. “They did offer her a ride. She refused it, and they could not sit on her and throw her in the car and drive her home. I wish when they made that decision to offer a ride, and (when) she refused, that they had refused service. … There has to be a message that if you serve someone that is visibly intoxicated, even if you dodge a bullet, and they don’t hurt somebody, there has to be accountability for that.”
On Aug. 30, 2019, Lindsey Ward was driving southbound on Highway 9 near Blue River when she drove her car across the centerline and collided head-on with another vehicle, killing Benjamin Mitton and Nichole Gough. Her blood-alcohol content was more than three times the legal limit at the time of the crash.
Ward later pleaded guilty to two counts of vehicular homicide DUI, and she was sentenced to 16 years in prison.
On the day of the crash, Ward was drinking at the Breckenridge Golf Club before she left for the liquor store, where she purchased beer and tequila from LeFeber and Moral. The alcohol was found unopened in her car following the crash.
LeFeber and Moral were later charged with misdemeanor counts of selling alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person following an investigation by the Colorado Department of Revenue’s Liquor Enforcement Division and the 5th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, which determined Ward was noticeably drunk when they sold her alcohol.
A one-day trial was held for LeFeber in November, after which Casias found him guilty on the charge. Moral pleaded guilty to the same charge during the sentencing hearing Tuesday morning.
During the hearing, Deputy District Attorney Stephanie Cava agreed that the men didn’t directly contribute to Ward’s intoxication or the ensuing crash but said they must be held accountable for serving someone they knew was intoxicated. Mona Lepp, the mother of Gough, who died in the crash, also addressed the court, asking for a sentence that would serve as more than a minor reprimand.
“I want to convey to you that losing my youngest child was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do,” Lepp said. “I believe this was totally preventable. … I just want to make sure that my daughter’s life, and Ben’s life … aren’t going to be considered worthless and that they don’t just get a slap on the wrist.”
Todd Barson, LeFeber and Moral’s defense attorney, said he believed reasonable minds could have differed in determining whether Ward was visibly intoxicated during the relatively short amount of time she interacted with the clerks, and he said he felt the men were being unfairly targeted while the individuals who actually served Ward to the point of dangerous intoxication were let off the hook entirely.
“Your honor found that 15 minutes after Ms. Ward was at the liquor store wasn’t a sufficient amount of time to change the circumstances, which in the presentation of this case is somewhat ironic because 15 minutes before she was at the liquor store, the town of Breckenridge got a free pass, and it was found there was no visible intoxication,” Barson said, referring to the Breckenridge Golf Club, where Ward had been served before she drove to the liquor store. “… It seems somewhat political and unfair these boys have been selectively prosecuted where the town gets a pass.”
Cava said the Department of Revenue and the District Attorney’s Office independently investigated and agreed that there wasn’t suitable evidence of intoxication to bring charges against servers at the Breckenridge Golf Club. The golf course is owned by the town of Breckenridge though the clubhouse is contracted out to another operator, according to police records.
LeFeber spoke on his own behalf at the hearing, first turning to Gough’s family to offer his condolences and to ask them to speak in person outside of the courtroom later. He took responsibility for his actions during his interaction with Ward, but he said he didn’t believe justice had been served without the individuals who served Ward alcohol at the golf course being held responsible, as well.
“It is a sad day to be sitting here in this situation and know there are political biases and different things, and an effort from people who have sworn an oath to the people of Colorado to actively investigate and give equal justice did not happen,” LeFeber said. “I agree with (the) verdict. I have no problem with (the) verdict. What I don’t agree with is the fact that other people who served (Ward) … got a free pass. … The fact of the matter is equal justice to the people has not been served, unfortunately.”
The judge also seemed to share the sentiment that perhaps servers at the golf course should have intervened before Ward left.
“I do have some frustration that the individuals who did serve Ms. Ward were never ticketed,” Casias said. “And the people have their reasons for it, and they made that decision. But that doesn’t make it any easier to swallow as far as a bitter pill for the families and for Mr. Moral and Mr. LeFeber. She didn’t drink in front of them. And some of the video that was presented to me shows her drinking in front of and with bartenders at Breckenridge golf course. … There were people with whom she was drinking who should have known she was intoxicated and who should not have continued to serve her.”
Ultimately, Casias said he felt any sort of incarceration for the two individuals wasn’t a fitting punishment. In addition to $500 in fines and other court fees, Casias also ordered both men to complete a Training for Intervention Procedures certification along with writing a letter of apology to the families of Gough and Mitton.
“The video shows 1 minute and 37 seconds of interaction with (Ward),” Casias said about the liquor store. “When you look at the video of the Breckenridge golf course, it’s about the same amount of time when they’re doing shots with her. They’re selling her booze. And those folks aren’t here. It’s not fair to these two, who didn’t serve her the shots and the booze that she drank before she took the lives of these two people, to (be put) in jail. I just can’t do it.”
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
As a Summit Daily News reader, you make our work possible.
Summit Daily is embarking on a multiyear project to digitize its archives going back to 1989 and make them available to the public in partnership with the Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection. The full project is expected to cost about $165,000. All donations made in 2023 will go directly toward this project.
Every contribution, no matter the size, will make a difference.
Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.
User Legend: Moderator Trusted User