Montezuma man pleads guilty in hit-and-run case
William Taylor Cobban, a Montezuma man accused in a hit-and-run incident while driving inebriated last year, pleaded guilty to charges of felony vehicular assault and driving under the influence in county court on Monday.
At about 6 p.m. on July 14, Colorado State Patrol troopers and Summit County Sheriff’s Office deputies responded to Hunki Dori Court at Keystone Resort, just off Montezuma Road near the Red Hawk Lodge, following a call that a pedestrian was injured in a collision with a vehicle.
On scene, officers spoke with witnesses in the area who said they saw a man, later identified as Cobban, drop the victim off at Hunki Dori Court and drive away. The victim asked witnesses in the area for help and to get a photo of Cobban’s license plate to help identify him later. Police also spoke with the victim, who had already been taken to St. Anthony Summit Medical Center in Frisco. He told the officers he was hit by Cobban on Montezuma Road about four miles south of where he was dropped off.
After collecting witness statements, officers made contact with Cobban at his residence off Montezuma Road. According to the police report, Cobban strongly smelled of alcohol though he seemed happy to see law enforcement. Cobban told police he was coming from the wine festival at Keystone and that a bicyclist clipped his mirror while he was driving home.
Cobban agreed to perform voluntary roadside maneuvers and failed. He refused a chemical test and was taken into custody shortly after on charges of vehicular assault, failing to remain at the scene of an accident, failure to notify police of an accident, failure to provide information after an accident and driving under the influence.
At his hearing on Monday, Cobban accepted a plea agreement, pleading guilty to felony vehicular assault and a DUI. The other charges were dismissed. Following Cobban’s guilty pleas, the hearing moved immediately into sentencing.
The prosecutor in the case, Kylie Whitaker, spoke on behalf of the victim who didn’t attend the hearing. Whitaker noted the severity of the victim’s injuries — including a broken humerus, broken ribs, a torn acromioclavicular ligament and more — along with the effects of the injuries.
“(The Victim) was out of work, had to have surgeries and it caused problems for his family,” said Whitaker. “He believes the defendant is too old to be acting so irresponsibly, and without concern for his life. … (The Victim) is a marathon runner, and this could effect his hobby forever, which causes him a lot of hurt and stress.”
Cobban’s attorney, Monica McElyea, noted that Cobban had no criminal history previous to this incident and that he’d been receiving substance abuse treatment since the collision. She said that Cobban made the right decision to pick the victim up after hitting him — as opposed to leaving him alone on the relatively scarcely traveled road — and characterized his decision to leave him at the resort and run as a panicked move.
“This is not the person he is,” said McElyea. “Everybody can make a bad decision, and this was a horrible one … he was so devastated that he freaked out.”
Cobban’s uncle spoke on his behalf next, offering his condolences to the victim and his family, and asking Judge Karen Romeo for leniency in her sentencing. Cobban finally spoke for himself, admitting responsibility for the accident and lamenting the fact that he’s been unable to apologize to the victim since the assault.
“He was hurting and I was freaking out,” said Cobban. “I was so freaked out and panicked; I didn’t want to drive and I didn’t know what to do. A family was there who called 911. I should have stayed on scene, but home wasn’t far. I knew they would come and find me. I was out of my mind, but it was very irresponsible of me. … I just want to apologize to him and his family.”
Judge Romeo chided Cobban for leaving the scene after the collision, but gave him “kudos” for stopping to pick the victim up and drop him off somewhere he could get help.
Romeo sentenced Cobban to 150 days in jail for the DUI charge, with eligibility for work and treatment release. He received a four-year deferred judgment and sentence on the vehicular assault charge. Along with standard terms of the deferred judgment (no drugs or alcohol, no new offenses, etc.) Cobban was ordered to undergo alcohol and mental health evaluations. He will also be required to complete 96 hours of community service, and will receive two years of supervised probation. Romeo also ordered an apology letter, which will be the first contact between Cobban and the victim since the collision.
“I can tell you’re wracked with guilt,” said Romeo. “(This sentence) will help you heal and put this behind you. I know that I’ve never felt more remorse and guilt (from a defendant), and I don’t want it to derail you.”
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