Schmuck of the Week

How Aspen's Kari Aaeng Almost Dodged Jail Time for Her Fifth DUI

Update: In March, we named Kari Aaeng a Schmuck of the Week after she was arrested for a reported eighth time on a DUI charge; our previous coverage has been incorporated into this post.

By the next month, the number of DUI busts began to shift, with the number eventually settling on four previous DUI convictions. Yet the next month, when Aaeng pleaded guilty to her fifth DUI, the prosecutor in the case recommended that she receive no jail time in the case.

That's not the way things worked out. Over the objections of Aaeng's attorney, a judge has ordered that she spend three months behind bars — and concedes that some observers may think this jolt should be longer.

The gallery of photos Aaeng shared on her Facebook page presents her as healthy and active. Here's one example....

...and another:

As for her profession, court documents accessed by the Aspen Times identified her as a ski instructor, suggesting that she's great at navigating moguls and other mountain terrain.

But roadways are another matter.

About 11:46 a.m. on February 19, the Times noted, police in Aspen received a call from a sixteen-year-old former family member of Aaeng's, who said she had whacked him in the face — and he did indeed have a cut under his eye.

Shortly thereafter, Aaeng was spotted driving near Koch Lumber Park, an area captured in the following interactive graphic. If you have problems seeing the image, click "View on Google Maps."

The officer in question trailed her for about a block before hitting the lights on his cruiser — but Aaeng, piloting a 1996 Acura, was apparently too blotto to notice. She kept driving, sort of (she seemed to be having problems shifting the car), before finally pulling over — and when she did, she seemed impatient to get on with the booking process.

"I did it," she's quoted as saying. "Just arrest me. Come on."

Later, after telling the officer she'd consumed a half-pint of vodka (or maybe a full pint), she added, "I think I'm going to go to prison.... I've had four DUIs."

When given a breathalyzer test, Aaeng blew a .297. 

Shortly thereafter, Aaeng became the second person charged with felony DUI in Pitkin County since a law change last year — and she was also suspected of assault and child abuse.

The latter accusations fell away with the April plea deal, for which only probation was advised. And at a Monday hearing chronicled by the Aspen Daily News, Aaeng's attorney stressed that she was receiving treatment for alcoholism in Minnesota, where she'd moved months earlier. Moreover, the lawyer argued that making her spend ninety days in an Aspen jail could potentially set back her recovery.

This argument didn't sway District Judge Chris Seldin. A Times account of the sentencing quotes Seldin as saying, "The court does believe that with a track record like this, a punitive component is appropriate. In fact, many question whether ninety days of jail is sufficient.”

Look below to see Aaeng's booking photo.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts