Grand jury to decide charges against Lucas Ackerman in Grand County Fourth of July accident
Sky-Hi Daily News
HOT SULPHUR SPRINGS — The 14th Judicial District Attorney’s Office will present the case of Lucus Paul Ackerman before a grand jury to decide whether charges should be brought against him in a fatal Fourth of July accident in Grand Lake.
Ackerman, 33, of Grand Lake, made his second appearance before Judge Mary Hoak in Hot Sulphur Springs Tuesday.
He was arrested on July 4 in connection with a vehicle-pedestrian collision that took place around 10:20 p.m. on Highway 34. Ackerman was driving a pick-up truck that allegedly hit five of 10 family members from Estes Park who were walking on the road. The father of the family, Gregory Westly, 50, was pronounced dead at the scene. His wife, Debbie Westly, 49, and three of the family’s eight children, including a 3-year-old, were flown to Denver-area hospitals for serious injuries.
Assistant district attorney Han Ng commented it appeared Ackerman may have a “colorable defense” in the case, which is why the DA’s office chose to present the case to a grand jury. “The continued investigation has caused a question of whether there is a defense,” Ng said.
A grand jury is essentially a group of citizens with power to call witnesses and complete investigations to determine whether charges should be filed in a case. Their work is done out of the public eye.
“The community should have a say in whether this is a crime or a horrible tragedy,” Ng said.
The grand jury will examine evidence in the case to will determine what if any charges should be brought in the case.
If the grand jury chooses to indict Ackerman, the DA’s office would be responsible to file those charges and prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Ackerman is guilty.
Ackerman has hired Hot Sulphur Springs attorney Jack Dicola to represent him.
Ng requested Ackerman be released on a personal recognizance bond, which means Ackerman wouldn’t be obligated to pay bail as long as he showed up to his next court proceeding in 30 days or until the grand jury is convened and has completed its investigation of the case. The DA’s office made this request without support of the victims’ family, according to Ng. The victims and family wanted Ackerman to remain in custody for public safety reasons, he said.
Hoak denied the motion. “I’m not on board with reducing the bond,” she said.
Ackerman’s Dicola argued to have the man’s bail reduced to $20,000 from the original $40,000 imposed by Hoak, which the judge also denied.
Due to the number of victims in the case and his criminal record, District Attorney Brett Barkey told Hoak during Ackerman’s first appearance in court on July 5, the case is an “aggravated case” and bail should be doubled from the $20,000 bail in light of the alleged offenses.
Ackerman bailed out of Grand County Jail at 7 p.m. on Tuesday.
The night of the accident, Ackerman’s blood alcohol content was allegedly at 0.156, nearly twice the legal limit, when Trooper G.E. Muse of the Colorado State Patrol placed him in custody, according to court documents.
Muse quoted Ackerman as saying he had six to seven beers prior to driving, and when asked on a scale of one to 10 how impaired he was, Ackerman allegedly said he was “probably at a six,” states the affidavit for the arrest warrant. Ackerman’s two children, ages 7 and 8, as well as his wife were passengers in the vehicle at the time of the accident.
Ackerman was booked into Grand County Jail on July 4 on charges of vehicular homicide, a Class 3 felony, four counts of vehicular assault for driving under the influence of alcohol, child abuse and possession of a firearm under the influence. The child abuse charge stems from Ackerman having his two children in the vehicle.
Ackerman had a prior DUI in 2002, and past misdemeanors including a successful deferred judgment of third-degree assault in 2002, a Class 3 misdemeanor for disorderly conduct in Larimer County in 2001 and a harassment misdemeanor in El Paso County in 1999.
The Colorado State Patrol is completing the investigation, with the assistance of the Grand County Sheriff’s Office, the Grand County Coroner, and the 14th Judicial District Attorney’s Office. The investigation is ongoing.
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