Odd behavior marks wrong-way driver’s appearance in Aspen court
A 45-year-old man who allegedly drove the wrong way down Highway 82 last week at an estimated 100 miles per hour exhibited extremely bizarre behavior after the incident and in a court appearance Monday.
John Reno entered the Pitkin County District Courtroom on Monday with his eyes closed and had to be guided to a chair in front of a judge by four jail deputies. He then opened his eyes briefly and attempted to sit in the chair backward before deputies turned him around to face Pitkin County Judge Erin Fernandez-Ely.
Fernandez-Ely asked if his name was “John Robert Reno.”
“For the record?” he said.
Pitkin County Jail deputies declined to comment about why Reno kept his eyes closed.
Reno also made several non-sequitur statements during the course of the hearing, including “I respectfully request a moment of silence,” “Have you ever been in the Boy Scouts, ma’am?” and “I’ve gotten away with drinking and driving on a couple of occasions.”
“Do you live here?” Fernandez-Ely asked at one point.
“Sure,” Reno said. “Wherever here is.”
Reno, whose hometown was unavailable Monday, first came to the attention of Pitkin County sheriff’s investigator Brad Gibson about 8 a.m. Thursday, while he was driving upvalley near the intersection of Highway 82 and the Aspen Business Center, according to an arrest warrant affidavit filed in Pitkin County District Court.
“Ahead of me on the highway I saw a Toyota SUV heading downvalley, westbound, crash over the center concrete median and bounce onto the upvalley lanes traveling at approximately 50 mph,” Gibson wrote in the affidavit. “I assumed with the slippery road conditions, the driver of the Toyota slid on the ice and snow and lost control of the SUV.”
Gibson turned on his emergency lights to warn traffic behind him of the threat, slowed down and assumed the Toyota would stop in front of him, according to the document.
“The driver of the Toyota instead accelerated rapidly heading directly towards me,” he wrote, noting that it would have been impossible to miss his flashing lights. “The Toyota passed me at what I visually estimated (at) 80 mph. … I knew I was fortunate the driver missed hitting my patrol car head-on at high speed.”
Gibson turned around while watching the Toyota disappear down the road in the wrong lane at an estimated 100 mph.
“I was scared for the eastbound drivers on Highway 82,” he wrote in the affidavit. “They unknowingly had an SUV heading towards them at a high rate of speed.”
Drivers pulled over to the side of the road, and Gibson was soon relieved to discover that Reno crashed into a concrete barrier near the west end of the airport runway, which disabled his vehicle.
Reno made bizarre statements to Gibson while standing shin-deep in a snowbank, some of which appeared threatening and caused the deputy to partially draw his handgun at one point, according to the affidavit. Several deputies had to wrestle him into handcuffs, and he was later forcibly restrained at Aspen Valley Hospital.
Reno was charged with felony menacing, felony vehicular eluding, reckless endangerment, reckless driving and exceeding the speed limit by more than 25 mph.
Reno has no prior felony or previous drunken driving convictions, Don Nottingham, deputy district attorney, said Monday. Fernandez-Ely ordered Reno held in lieu of a $25,000 bond.
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The felony case against Mark Aspiri, a former U.S. Senate Candidate from Silt, was continued Tuesday to Oct. 26.