Among the legal issues left unresolved as Brittney Angel heads to trial next month: The extent to which her attorneys may dwell on mistakes by El Paso County sheriff’s deputies in trying to halt her escape.
Angel, 21, was the passenger in a Hyundai sedan that fled sheriff’s deputies at the Chief Motel in central Colorado Springs.
The driver, 27-year-old Christen Vargas, ran over a deputy’s foot in the process, prompting him to fire at the fleeing vehicle.
The bullet wounded Vargas in the torso, and Angel took over driving from the passenger seat and managed to escape, authorities say. Vargas was found dead inside the Hyundai three hours later. The car was abandoned outside the Memorial Hospital emergency room.
An internal review by the sheriff’s office later concluded the deputy, Marcus Miller, shouldn’t have drawn his weapon and wasn’t aware of his surroundings when he fired – leading to a 20-hour suspension without pay.
The sheriff’s office also found fault with two other deputies involved, according to documents obtained by The Gazette.
Whether that information is allowed at trial, however, remains to be seen.
Prosecutors say the mistakes are irrelevant to whether Angel is guilty of eluding police, and they want a judge to bar the defense from calling more than a half-dozen sheriff’s officials involved in reviewing the shooting.
Public defender Cindy Jones said in court that some of the officials have information that can undermine the deputies’ credibility.
During a pre-trial hearing Friday, 4th Judicial District Judge David A. Gilbert said he needed more information before issuing a ruling, and asked attorneys to prepare arguments for the morning of trial, which is set for Aug. 6.
Gilbert said he will consider whether Angel’s defense can establish that the deputies’ conduct and that of Angel were somehow related, among other factors.
Angel is charged with felony eluding, tampering with evidence, concealing a death and reckless driving.
The issue of what qualifies as admissible in court led to legal battles in two recent high-profile cases in Colorado Springs.
Last week, an abortion protester charged with trespassing at Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs complained that he was hamstrung at trial by a judge’s order barring him from raising his religious beliefs as a defense. Martone, who said he felt “called by God” to trespass, was convicted by a jury and fined $400.
In the case of Bob Crouse, a cancer patient accused of cultivating marijuana, prosecutors tried to get a judge to toss out defense arguments that Crouse grew marijuana to treat his disease, but the court sided with Crouse.
A jury acquitted Crouse on all counts earlier this month.