Judge Timbreza cited in DUI crash

District Judge Lance Timbreza

A district court judge who crashed his SUV and was cited on suspicion of DUI and careless driving over the weekend said he is "embarrassed and humbled" by the incident, in a statement released by his lawyer Tuesday.

Twenty-first Judicial District Court Judge Lance Timbreza on Saturday was behind the wheel of a silver Volkswagen SUV that multiple witnesses saw speeding along the hilly portion of 27 1/2 Road as it approaches Horizon Drive, near Bookcliff Country Club. Timbreza lost control after the turn, crossed the lane of oncoming traffic between two other vehicles, and crashed into an area of brush and trees southwest of the road, according to police investigators' re-creation of events.

An officer who encountered Timbreza at the scene said he "could smell a strong odor of an unknown alcoholic beverage emitting from his breath," according to a case report from the Grand Junction Police Department.

"I noticed his eyes appeared to be watery, glassy and bloodshot; his face was also flushed," the officer wrote, and, "he was unsteady on his feet and staggered" as he crossed to the road to meet him.

Before his arrest, Timbreza described to the officer his version of the events leading up to the crash.

He said that in the afternoon he and another person visited a Palisade winery, where they sampled six wines. Between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m., Timbreza said he attended a pool party near the crash scene, where he drank another "1-2 glasses of wine," according to police. He said he was headed home on 27 1/2 Road when he crashed, trying to dodge a vehicle that had swerved into his lane, but Timbreza could not describe that vehicle or even whether it swerved in front of or behind him, the officer noted.

Timbreza also told police that a small dog was sitting next to him in the front seat at the time of the high-speed accident.

The arresting Grand Junction police officer was further convinced Timbreza was under in the influence because, as he notes in the report, he previously has appeared in Timbreza's courtroom and said his speech Saturday was "slurred" and "distinctly different."

Once advised that the officer believed him to be drunk, Timbreza "stared straight ahead and did not answer" when asked to perform field sobriety tests.

There's no mention in the available reports of whether Timbreza was offered or cooperated in a breath test.

Police did find a plastic cup with a small amount of alcohol at the scene, and Timbreza's shirt was partially soaked after the crash, officers reported.

Timbreza was placed in handcuffs, searched, and on the way to a patrol car asked an officer to not take him to jail, saying "those people will kill him," according to the police summary.

The officer informed the judge that he would be taken to police headquarters and later released, which is what happened.

Witnesses told police that they saw Timbreza's SUV speeding around the corner — accelerating rather than braking — before the crash.

A man who went to see if Timbreza was OK after the crash said he didn't smell an alcoholic beverage on him, but said the judge was "acting weird." He told police Timbreza kept repeating, "We're fine. We don't need any help," and that the man didn't need to contact authorities.

The homeowner whose pool party Timbreza attended right before the crash described him as "lit" when he arrived around 4:30 p.m., according to investigators.

He urged Timbreza to let someone give him a ride but Timbreza refused, the pool party host told police.

The host — who wasn't drinking on account of children attending the party — later drove by the crash scene while out getting pizza. He said he saw Timbreza standing on the sidewalk with an officer and the crashed vehicle nearby, and "knew it wasn't good" when he saw more police cars at the scene on his return trip home.

Timbreza issued a statement Tuesday through his attorney, David Beller of Denver, that read in part:

"Judge Timbreza is thankful this incident and his actions were not someone else's nightmare. To his friends, family, colleagues and community: he is sorry.

"He is grateful for the privilege of serving the citizens of Mesa County in the future and through this difficult time.

"Judge Timbreza looks forward to making amends and learning from the lessons each experience, good or bad, brings."

Timbreza, 40, was appointed to the bench by former Gov. John Hickenlooper in 2016. He was retained by voters with 74 percent approval in November last year.

Timbreza was born and raised in Delta, and has a law degree from Gonzaga University School of Law. He and his husband, Sam, have two children and two stepchildren, according to a previous profile.

Conduct of judges is scrutinized by the state's Commission on Judicial Discipline, a panel that investigates incidents where there might be "willful misconduct … (which) brings the judicial office into disrepute," among many other circumstances that could affect a judge's ability to serve.

That commission would become involved in Timbreza's case if a conviction is entered against the judge, according to Bill Campbell, executive director of the commission.

Timbreza is currently presiding over the lengthy theft trial of former roofing company owner George Harris, among other cases, and Monday morning Timbreza addressed the incident and his citations in open court.

According to the state attorney general's office, whose attorneys are trying the Harris case, the state said that it didn't have an issue with Judge Timbreza's ability to continue presiding over the pending trial.

Dan Shaffer, who represents Harris, said the defense also didn't object "because we don't perceive a conflict."

He added, "Naturally, we believe in the presumption of innocence."

Recommended for you