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