DA Mark Hurlbert Charges Lake County, Colo. Sheriff’s Deputy for Obstructing Leadvile Firefighter Dan Dailey in Smart and Stand-Up Prosecutorial Move – UPDATED: Criminally Charged Deputy Stays on Active Duty

Mark Hurlbert, the District Attorney for Lake County, Colorado, made an admirably bold move

Protesters in Leadville Support Firefighter - Photo by Marcia Martinek - Leadville Herald Democrat

last night in announcing his decision to prosecute  Lake County Sheriff’s Deputy Steven James, rather than Dan Dailey, the Leadville Fire Captain James had arrested when he responded to a medical emergency.  Hurlbert charged James with three Class II misdemeanor counts.

According to Denver 7’s review of the court documents, Hurlbert charged the sheriff’s deputy  with “impeding an official in a public building, official misconduct and obstructing a fire fighter or medical person.”  In addition to serving as the DA for Lake County,  Hurlbert also represents Summit, Eagle and Clear Creek counties.  He is term-limited in 2012, and is running in a Republican contest for state Senate against conservative/libertarian businessman, Tim Leonard of  Evergreen.

As we reported here and as covered in the Denver Post and Denver7 embedded accounts, James arrested Dailey on March 27, for being the first responder on the scene of an injury victim in a domestic violence incident.  He was arrested when he insisted he be allowed to treat the patient and refused James’ order to leave the scene.  James was apparently acting in accordance with a territorial dispute initiated by controversial Lake County Sheriff, Ed Holte, to expand his department’s control of emergency services that have been handled by the City of Leadville.

My sources indicate the community is happy to have the issue resolved, and resolved this way.   “Justice prevails”!, according to Dave Wright, a community activist and owner of the historic Golden Burro restaurant and lounge in Leadville.

Update 4-25: New Post with the latest and a new “verdict” against Hurlbert is here.

DA Mark Hurlbert

Mark Hurlbert wielded his legal weapons brilliantly in this case. Under the laws of Colorado and many states,  an individual technically can be charged with obstruction even for disobeying an illegal order by a cop, for example videotaping an incident of possible misconduct.  But the DA has broad discretion in charging decisions.  I opined that Hurlbert should not charge EMT Capt. Dailey.

But Hurlbert did better than that.  By deftly deploying the statutes that apply to responding medical personnel and the laws that prohibit their being obstructed in their duties, Hurlbert’s investigation of the facts and the law enabled him to charge  Sheriff’s Deputy James.  Hurlbert did what he said he was going to do at the outset – look at the public safety issues in the case.

Hurlbert reportedly is still investigating John Ortega, the other alleged criminal Sheriff’s Deputy in Lake County who tased a bunch of masochistic school kids.  Hopefully we’ll see a charging decision there as well.  I’m also waiting a call back from Sheriff Ed Holte to find out if Deputy Ortega is set to go back on the job today and what he plans to do with James.   He reportedly rehired a suspended deputy after Hurlbert convicted him of misdemeanor charges for severely beating a handcuffed suspect

Hurlbert’s adroit and appropriate legal move is not often followed by other district attorneys in Colorado or around the country.  Readers may recall this Oklahoma City case of law enforcement both obstructing and  abusing an EMT driving a patient to the hospital in an ambulance.

I spoke with the DA involved in this infamous case, and but for the close to 2,500,000 YouTube hits this video received, she probably would have charged the EMT.   She did not file charges against the LEO here, and his serious anger management issues resulted in other incidents for which he received suspensions.

5 responses to “DA Mark Hurlbert Charges Lake County, Colo. Sheriff’s Deputy for Obstructing Leadvile Firefighter Dan Dailey in Smart and Stand-Up Prosecutorial Move – UPDATED: Criminally Charged Deputy Stays on Active Duty

  1. Dave Wright? If you want credibility, there are better sources. Dave is simply loud and constantly seeking attention. He’s been here only a few years (5 or 6?) and is hardly representative of this community.

    With regard to the fire vs. sheriff depts. ‘urinary’ contest, near as I can tell the community is divided about 50-50. A quick reading of incident reports and memos exchanged between the FD and SD over the last year (included in a recent email from the city clerk–apparently they had been part of earlier public meetings) reveals neither dept. has much to brag about when it comes to the maturity and professionalism of their personnel.

    Also, there is far, far more to this dispute, with its origins dating back 20+ years, and the more recent escalations going back about 10 years, and the arrival of some politically ambitious people. So far, the media has been reporting on a rash and ignoring the disease. But since the essence of the ‘disease’ is simply small-town politics, I wouldn’t expect people outside of our scrappy little berg to be interested.

    Lastly, did it not occur to you that Hurlbert’s decision to press charges against the deputy might also be politically motivated? After all, the fire dept. is unionized, and there are a lot more union members than there are Lake County deputies.

    • Thanks for your comment Kay. I love your description of the “scrappy little burg.” I’m pretty new into learning about it, and I have definitely noticed and admire the scrappiness. Admittedly I’m new on writing about you all. I just started out on Jihad Jamie and was fortunate that Sgt. Thomas was kind enough to give me an interview. Then the same week Jamie was indicted, these other two cases came down, and I had to write about them.

      I tried very hard to get the Summit Daily to cover the incidents. They gave ridiculous excuses about not having the resources to cover Leadville. I pointed out that it wasn’t just Leadville, it featured Summit’s own DA too, who is running for our State Senate. I also pointed out that they get stories from the Denver Post all the time, they could at least publish those. Then they talk lack of space. I did send it to the Summit Citizens Voice, published by Bob Berwyn, and it gets a lot of readership as so many are fed up with the Summit Daily. They covered Ortega.

      I also appreciate your pointing out the possible political motives of the DA in charging James. My original call was to let it go, and not charge either of them. Based on his statements, I thought Hurlbert would quickly charge Ortega and was being more responsive to the public than he had in the past. I figured that was the likely political motive, because he sure hasn’t charged LEO in many situations involving civilians when he should have. I appreciate your pointing out these very specific political motives, as I was starting to think of them as well.

      I am writing a piece now that discusses the possible political motives in James, which I began this morning even before your comment. It focuses on Hurlbert’s almost monarch-like attitude towards the public. I see this hasn’t changed and likely the James decision was based on the motivations you mention.

      Now that I’ve gotten involved in the scrappy burg, I want to stay involved after the “rashes” have healed. Sounds real screwed up, very inbred, and I could use as wide a variety of input as possible. Please feel free to email me off-blog anytime at Lauraincabo@gmail.com

    • Kay, your comment was certainly well timed. I just updated the post to reflect the correction. I do have numerous sources in the community, and appreciate your adding your input for my enlightenment. Please stay tuned to the blog for more details and the next article.

  2. Kay’s comments were right on point and I would like to also add that the mayor and his predecessor have used this fire dept. as their political bully pulpit for the last ten years.

    The current mayor has become a very deft in being able to create a hostile environment for his opposition, while always masquerading as the one who cares.
    Here is a link. http://www.firehouse.com/topics/politics-and-law/colo-capt-arrested-trying-aid-woman
    The mayor said sheriff’s dispatcher’s reluctance to call fire EMT’s may have contributed to one death.

    “We had an incident where a lady’s dad was visiting (Leadville) and had a heart attack,” Elliott said. “She called 911 and she was doing CPR.” Sheriff’s dispatchers did not dispatch fire department “until much later.”

    “A sheriff deputy only responded. By the time an ambulance got there, the guy had died,” the mayor said.

    I followed up on this comment with a county commissioner and found out the mayor was referring to the father of one of our police officers. The mayor is now politicizing this death yet denied it at the last fire meeting when questioned. Don’t remember Hurlbert investigating this one.

    How “low” will the mayor continue to stoop when dousing this fire with fuel?

    • “Meeting Attender”: The article you quoted states that there is “disagreement about what happened next”. Perhaps people with various political agendas will continue to disagree, but the facts on this matter are quite clear. All ambulance personnel that night agree that the fire engine arrived before the ambulance. In addition, the 9-1-1 dispatch tapes clearly document the fire engine arriving before the ambulance as each vehicle is required to call in on the radio when they arrive “on scene”. Therefore, who was first on scene that night is no longer in question.

      So given these facts, James was either confused, mistaken, or simply forgot who arrived first. However, I just can’t fathom how someone could actually be so confused or so mistaken or so forgetful that they could honestly claim that they truthfully thought that they had already admitted the ambulance personnel into the scene, that a crew was already inside caring for the patient, and that they therefore legitimately had asked the fire crew to remain outside. We are talking about an officer of the law who has been trained to remember events and to truthfully testify about them in a court of law. Thus, I believe that you can add “lying to cover his own butt” to James’ offenses. That, over and above the fire captain’s arrest, is the most disturbing thing that occurred in this incident, in my opinion. It shows an increasingly common attitude amongst LEOs of “I can do and say anything I want, and if you don’t like it, too bad. And if I’m questioned about it later, I’ll just lie and say you were the one at fault and therefore I was justified in my illegal actions. End of story.”

      In addition, while I may not agree with a lot of what the Mayor of Leadville does, in this case, I would ask what difference it makes that the person who died was the father of a police officer in town? A medical 9-1-1 call was placed and a choice was made (by an employee of the Sheriff’s Dept. working in Dispatch) that only law enforcement would be dispatched. Dispatch protocols do not provide for such a choice (for good reason as dispatch employees in Lake County are not medically trained beyond first aid and CPR), and this incident should have therefore resulted in an investigation. Had that occurred, perhaps this later incident (and many similar others) would have been prevented.

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