Former Aspen RFTA bus driver pleads guilty to DUI, says pot cookie, not booze, is to blame
A former RFTA driver who was taken off his bus last winter after supervisors suspected he was inebriated said Tuesday in court he did not consume alcohol before transporting bus passengers that night.
Instead, Jeffory “Mudflap” Estes, who was later cited for DUI, told Pitkin County Judge Erin Fernandez-Ely he drank from a pint of 90-proof peppermint schnapps in his car Feb. 12 after Roaring Fork Transportation Authority supervisors removed him from the bus.
“I proceeded to make a bad decision,” Estes said. “I knew I’d lost the best job I ever had.”
A RFTA supervisor told Pitkin County sheriff’s deputies after the incident that Estes, who was driving a bus between Aspen and Blue Lake, loaded passengers in the wrong spot at Rubey Park and his voice later sounded slurred on the radio, according to a sheriff’s report.
Estes, 46, left Rubey Park but was directed to stop at the RFTA maintenance yard at the Aspen Business Center. A RFTA official later said he didn’t know how many passengers were transferred off the bus at the maintenance yard.
RFTA officials asked Estes to go to Aspen Valley Hospital to have his blood drawn and tested, but Estes declined.
Garth McCarty, Estes’ lawyer, said Tuesday that his client ate a marijuana cookie the night before the incident that had a stronger affect on him than he expected and that he was likely still experiencing the cookie while driving.
“He would never have put the passengers in danger,” McCarty said.
Estes said he declined the blood test because he knew he would test positive for marijuana, which would have caused RFTA to fire him under the agency’s zero-tolerance policies. He said he didn’t smell like alcohol when they pulled him off the bus just after midnight and that he “was very sober” at the time.
Prosecutor Eric Trout did not dispute Estes’ story.
Estes pleaded guilty Tuesday to misdemeanor DUI with a blood-alcohol content of 0.19 and was sentenced to two years of unsupervised probation. He will also have to complete 50 hours of community service.
Estes has no other criminal history and the case marks his first DUI, Trout said.
Estes, a rafting guide, has since moved to Anchorage, Alaska, and said he plans on working at Denali National Park next summer.
McCarty characterized his client as “remarkable,” “happy” and “optimistic” and said the DUI has been a blemish on Estes’ otherwise positive life.
“This particular incident is a matter of a lot of shame and embarrassment for him,” McCarty said.
Estes said RFTA was upset about his situation, partially because he was the second-most popular driver for the agency.
“I want to know who was more popular than me,” he said.
RFTA fired Estes soon after the incident.
He admitted that the DUI has caused him humiliation and cost him the RFTA job and a summer job last season at Denali. Still, he appeared positive.
“I love my life,” Estes said.
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