A Cortez man who pleaded guilty to leading law enforcement on a high-speed chase north of Durango was sentenced Friday to three years in community corrections.
Tyler Smith, 24, pleaded guilty in April to vehicular eluding, a Class 5 felony punishable by up to three years in prison, court documents show. Law enforcement accused him of leading police on a 20-minute chase March 13 on U.S. Highway 550. The chase reached speeds of 90 mph on county roads with posted speed limits of 35 to 40 mph.
Arresting documents show Smith drove in opposing lanes of traffic and on the shoulder of highways while evading law enforcement and dodged a spike strip by swerving off County Road 251 (32nd Street) in northern Durango.
Deputy District Attorney Sean Murray suggested District Court Judge William Herringer sentence Smith to community corrections, saying that offering him a probationary sentence may not give him the support he needs to keep the community safe, citing the “lack of care and concern for other human beings” in the high-speed chase.
Smith did not speak beyond one-word responses at his Friday morning sentencing hearing.
Jonathan Jourdane, Smith’s public defender, told Herringer his client has been in institutions most of his life, including foster care as a child, something the defense attorney said was the “starting of (Smith’s) institutionalization when it wasn’t his choice.”
“The fact that he is here is a testament to his strength,” Jourdane said. “His upbringing put him in this place.”
Herringer told Smith on Friday that he was “very glad” he had the option to sentence the defendant to community corrections. If given the option between prison or probation, Herringer said he’d opt for the former.
“We can’t have you back in the community if an officer wants to pull you over for a broken tail light and that starts another 100 mph chase,” Herringer said.
Smith’s wife, Veronica Smith, told Herringer her husband suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder from his previous interactions with police and, when he saw a sheriff’s deputy chasing him, fled for fear of going back to prison.
“He’s a really good person,” Smith told the judge of her husband. “He’s had a hard life growing up.”