Wix, Riegel make first appearances

MEEKER I John Wix’s first court appearance didn’t last very long. Drew Riegel’s took considerably longer.
The two men, both charged in an Aug. 1 underage drinking incident where a 15-year-old girl was tested the next day at a potentially lethal level of alcohol poisoning, appeared in court for the first time Friday. Both are charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor, a class 4 felony, as well as other misdemeanor charges.
Wix, 51, was first up on the court docket. His appearance only lasted a short time.
“Your client is here and not in custody,” said Judge Gail Nichols.
Wix had bonded out after being arrested Aug. 7. Riegel bonded out Friday after spending one week in the Rio Blanco County Detention Center.
Wix’s attorney in Denver appeared at Friday’s hearing by telephone.
“We have received a copy of the charges,” Wix’s attorney said. “I ask that the matter be set over for pretrial or dispositional conference.”
Jay Barasch, deputy district attorney, said a dispositional conference “is a court hearing at which the parties present a plea agreement, if one can be reached, or announce that a plea agreement is not forthcoming in this case and ask that the case be set for a preliminary hearing.”
Wix’s next court date was set for Sept. 11. After that he was excused from the courtroom.
Meanwhile, Riegel, 21, who appeared in court handcuffed and wearing a jail-issued orange jumpsuit, had to wait his turn. His hearing lasted longer than Wix’s. He appeared without an attorney.
“I’m appointing you a public defender today,” Nichols said. “If you want to hire a private attorney, that’s fine. But we don’t want anybody not represented.”
Nichols read aloud the charges filed against Riegel as well as the possible penalties.
“Do you understand the charges?” the judge asked.
“Yes, ma’am,” Riegel said.
The judge asked Riegel if he wanted to have his bond reduced.
“Why should I let you out? Nichols asked, who also questioned Riegel if he had been in trouble before.
“I’ve had alcohol-related crimes,” Riegel said. “But I’ve been going to AA classes.”
The judge said she recognized alcoholism is a common problem.
“My family has the same problem. Lots of families do,” Nichols said. “Your father is here, that’s a good sign. You’re fortunate to have a father who let you sober up.”
James Riegel, Drew’s father, was in the courtroom.
“I chose not to (bail out his son after he was arrested),” Riegel’s father said. “I felt Drew needed some time to think about this.”
Deputy district attorney Barasch recommended one of the conditions of Riegel’s release should be he submit to a daily breath analyzer test for alcohol.
“I believe he has a significant (alcohol) problem,” Barasch said.
Detentions Lt. Deby Merriam said the breath alcohol test could be administered by the county jail. The judge agreed the daily test would be a good idea.
“If you know you need to go in for a blow, you’ll be less likely to drink,” Nichols said.
Other conditions for Riegel included having no contact with the minors involved in the underage drinking party held at John Wix’s cabin upriver. Riegel is charged with providing alcohol for the minors.
Another condition the judge imposed was the requirement for Riegel to attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings twice a week.
“When you come back, I want to see you’ve gone to AA meetings at least twice,” Nichols told Riegel, whose next court date is Friday, when the public defender will be available.
The judge then asked Riegel’s father if he thought his son should be released.
“Mr. Riegel, do you believe your son has been in jail long enough to sober up?” Nichols asked.
“Yes, I believe, your honor, he has,” James Riegel said, adding, “I believe it’s a good idea to do the breath test.”
In her closing remarks to Riegel, the judge said, “I want to stress to you how fortunate you are (to have his father present in the courtroom). I know this is a huge challenge, but you’re young. You can put this behind you and have a happy life.”