09 December 2005

Studies in Discord: Aspen and Arapahoe County

Aspen and Arapahoe County, the former wealthy and nationally known, the latter, a major suburban county in the Denver metropolitian area, both have seriously disfunctional law enforcement cultures.

In Arapahoe County, after the good citizens finally got around to eliminating their sex crazed and sexually harassing clerk and recorder, they now have problems with the District Attorney Carol Chambers who has undertaken the fools errand trying to make a big stink out of her claim that:

[J]udges in the 18th District keep witnesses waiting too long to testify, allow defense attorneys to ask too many questions during motions hearings, waste the time of police officers and take too many breaks.

And she engaged in stunts like having prosecutors time the breaks (required by law in many cases) taken by judges in her district.

The judges, not surprisingly, did not appreciate this attitude. So, the District Attorney has grieved two of the judges with the state supreme court. The action is unprecedented.

Now this isn't to say that the judges have exactly been models of decorum either.

[A] county judge warned prosecutors "that there will be 'repercussions' because we are doing this study."

The repercussions, the letter says, would include district and county judges turning any procedural weakness on the part of a prosecutor into a chance to dismiss cases and refuse to grant continuances "without regard for the reason."

The letter contends that Arapahoe County Judge Christopher Cross told a prosecutor that judges would "act together."

"Judge Cross told (the prosecutor) that if we were going to push on them, they are going to push back," she wrote.

The letter says that District Judge Marilyn Leonard Antrim might also retaliate.

But, Chambers, who also hasn't made much peace with the Aurora police department, one of the biggest in her jurisdiction, isn't scoring very high on the plays well with others scale.

Then again, life isn't much better in Aspen where a major police raid put dozens of innocent residents at risk of being caught in crossfire between law enforcement agents with guns drawn and suspected drug dealers, could have provoked gunfire between Sherrif's deputies and police, provoked a public apology from he man who organized the raids, and the Aspen police chief made a "decision not to consult with Pitkin County Sheriff Bob Braudis in the days leading up to the raid because the sheriff has been outspoken against the war on drugs. . . . The 15-year-old son of Aspen resident Gerry Goldstein, a prominent lawyer based in San Antonio, was the first person to inform Braudis that the busts were occurring. The sheriff then learned that the Pitkin County Jail, which he oversees, was overcrowded because of the unannounced bust." Agents from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Colorado Department of Revenue and the nearby Snowmass Police Department assisted in the raids at two crowded local restaurants, where nine minor drug dealers and eleven illegal immigrants were arrested in dramatic daytime raids.

Meanwhile, Colleen Truden, the Republican District Attorney in Aspen, faces a recall vote on December 13th, which conventional wisdom has it that she is almost certain to lose because of her corrupt handling of the office's funds and a management style that has forcibly pushed most of the experienced prosecutors in her office to quit, as well as bad judgment in how she has handled prosecutions.

The idea that the government closest to the people governs best often simply is not true, at least in Colorado.

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