Aspen woman gets two DUIs in four days
The Aspen Times
For the second time in four days, police acted on 911 phone tips and arrested an Aspen woman for allegedly driving her car after taking sleeping pills.
The arrest marked the sixth time Leslee Francis, 56, has been arrested for DUI since 2001, and the third time she’s been taken to jail in Aspen for drunken driving since May 2018.
“You were arrested for DUI (and) you were taken to jail,” said District Judge Chris Seldin on Thursday. “Then allegedly the same week for the same pill you were arrested again.
“This is incredibly concerning and the risk to the public is manifest.”
Aspen prosecutor Don Nottingham also said he was worried about the risk Francis poses to the public in general, and asked that she be held at the Pitkin County Jail in lieu of a $25,000 cash-only bond.
Seldin, however, didn’t think $25,000 cash was enough and ordered Francis — who is set to go on trial for felony DUI in April — held in lieu of a $50,000 cash bond for each of the latest DUIs. That means she must come up with $100,000 in cash to be let out of jail.
Francis — who witnesses saw nearly hit another vehicle head-on Sunday on Highway 82 — told the judge she’d recently been diagnosed with epilepsy, which she said was to blame for her DUI arrests Sunday and Wednesday.
But Seldin was having none of it. He noted that epilepsy isn’t mentioned in either of the two police reports detailing her latest arrests, though pills used to treat insomnia were found in her possession both times.
“Both (reports) made reference to sleeping pills … you had allegedly taken rather than any epileptic episode,” he said.
Two separate witnesses called emergency dispatchers Wednesday about 4:15 p.m. after allegedly seeing Francis hit concrete posts near the gas pumps at the Conoco station on Main Street, according to an arrest warrant affidavit filed Thursday in Pitkin County District Court. The two witnesses also reported that Francis was unable to remove the gas cap from her silver Lexus before she got back into the car and headed west on Main Street, the affidavit states.
When the same Aspen police officer who arrested her Sunday tried to stop her Wednesday on North Fourth Street, Francis inexplicably pulled over to the left-hand side of the street instead of the right, according to the affidavit. When Officer Ryan Turner went to speak to Francis, she had slow, slurred speech and “had difficulty forming sentences,” he wrote in the document.
Francis was unsteady on her feet when she exited her car, and the officer noticed a small pill on the floor of the driver’s side of the car. She told Turner she didn’t know what the pill was and that she’d found it “over by Mountain Valley,” though she later said she takes the pill at night when she goes to bed, the affidavit states. Two similar pills were later found in her car, and Francis admitted she didn’t have a prescription for them.
Turner used the internet to identify the pill as Zolpidem, a sedative used to treat insomnia, according to the affidavit. Francis refused to allow a sample of her blood to be taken so a judge signed a search warrant to force her to provide a sample for testing, Nottingham said.
Francis had half a Zolpidem in her possession after she was arrested Sunday, and tested positive for the drug after she was arrested for DUI on Mother’s Day last year with her teenage son in the car.
During that incident in May 2018, witnesses called emergency dispatchers and reported seeing her Lexus SUV “weaving all over” Highway 82 near the roundabout, hitting the median near the golf course and tailgating and cutting-off another vehicle.
Her trial in that case is scheduled for April.
On Sunday, witnesses also called emergency dispatchers and said Francis was driving 20 mph under the speed limit with her headlights off on Highway 82 and repeatedly crossing the centerline into the on-coming traffic lane, according to court documents. At one point she allegedly nearly hit another car head-on near the Maroon Creek Bridge.
Francis pleaded guilty to felony trespassing in August 2017 after she was caught on surveillance video breaking in to her neighbor’s house and stealing seven pills used to treat high blood pressure. Francis was sentenced to 60 days in jail and three years of probation in November 2017 for the offense.
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