Tag Archives: Katie Brazelton

Mountain Bike Racer Charged with Felony In Leadville Race, Pleads to Misdemeanor: DA Hurlbert Drops Felony Against Wendy Lyall Under Public Pressure

Colorado Mountain bike racer, Wendy Lyall,  who used her friend’s registration  number to ride in a Leadville race last year and was charged with a felony,  appeared in court today and plead guilty to a misdemeanor trespass charge.   DA Mark Hurlbert dropped the felony criminal impersonation charge he originally filed against her, and instead Lyall will receive a deferred judgment under which she’ll be required to write a letter of apology and perform 45 hours of bicycle safety instruction.

The deferred judgment settlement represents the most lenient and speedy resolution of  the case possible, short of an outright dismissal.  It is not the type of resolution one would anticipate after the filing of a felony charge.  As we first reported, in a piece that gained national attention, this result should be considered a victory for grassroots activists and ordinary citizens to get out the message when they feel government officials are not representing them.

Mark Hurlbert himself got that message at the Colorado Republican Assembly on Friday  where his state Senate bid was quashed when he failed to qualify for the GOP primary ballot in August. Hurlbert was crushed by opponent Tim Leonard, 71 to 29 percent.

The fact remains, that a better resolution for everyone concerned could have and should have come without criminal charges.  I just finished an interview with race director, Ken Chlouber.  As we first reported, he wanted criminal charges dropped, as well as information privately conveyed to him that could help him improve security procedures at the race.  Chlouber confirmed that he knew nothing about the plea bargain until after court was over.  DA Hurlbert failed Chlouber in not securing this reasonable request, and managed to also fail Lyall, Chlouber and the public by not simply dropping criminal charges.

Hurlbert still damaged Wendy Lyall far more than this plea deal indicates because Hurlbert meted out so much  “extra-judicial” punishment before she ever stepped foot in court simply by filing unwarranted felony charges.

I don’t know Lyall, but I’ve heard from quite a few people who do know her, and  I doubt she would have needed a felony prosecution to agree to teach 45 hours of  bicycle safety.  Chlouber was very outspoken in our interview this evening, so much so that it warrants a separate article while I get out these basics about the case.

Under the deferred judgment plea, the case will be dismissed in one year as long as Lyall performs her two requirements of the apology letter and the bike safety instruction.  The record of the case is then automatically sealed and she will have no official criminal conviction or even a record of the charges.   Lyall will also be able to have the felony arrest record sealed upon application to the court and the payment of a filing fee.

Her friend, Katie Brazelton, who was injured and could not compete in the race and who gave her race packet to Lyall, faces a June 7 court appearance on a charge of  felony conspiracy to commit criminal impersonation.

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DA Hurlbert Hints Mountain Bike Racers Don’t Deserve Felony or Jail in Leadville 100 Number Swap: UPDATE 5-13 – Race Organizer Chlouber Wants Criminal Charges Dropped, Says Settlement in Works

In the face of mounting criticism of his May 8 decision to file felony criminal impersonation charges against two Colorado  mountain bike racers for swapping numbers at a Leadville race last year,

DA Mark Hurlbert

DA Hurlbert nows says it is unlikely the two women would go to jail or face a felony conviction.  It also looks like a settlement is in the works and could be announced as early as today.

Hurlbert charged Wendy Lyall, 36, who competed in the women’s 40-49 division of the race, with one count of felony criminal impersonation.  She is due to appear in Lake County Court at 11:30 on May 24.

Her friend, Katie Brazelton, who allegedly gave her non-refundable racing packet to Lyall because she was injured and could not compete, has not yet been charged. Update: 5-12, 11:30 a.m. – The court clerk just notified me that Hurlbert has charged Brazelton with one count of feloncy conspiracy to commit criminal impersonation.  She is due in court on June 7.

Mark Hurlbert is the controversial prosecutor of L.A. Lakers’ basketball star, Kobe Bryant. After a failed bid to extend his term limits as DA, he is now a Colorado state Senate candidate for District 16, shown in this map.  Hurlbert, ironically, is competing for the Republican nomination against an avid endurance road cyclist, conservative/libertarian businessman, Tim Leonard of Evergreen.  Update: 5-12, 11:30 a.m. See today’s lead article in the Summit Daily, on this campaign.  Hurlbert lies and says Leonard was in the race three months longer than him as a pathetic excuse for Leonard whipping him in fundraising.  Try three weeks in the applicable quarter.  Lots of other stupid quotes too.

Given Hurlbert now admits that a felony conviction is unlikely and jail unmerited, why did he go ahead and charge the felony to begin with? Though he probably doesn’t care, Hurlbert certainly knows that the mere charging of a  felony is likely to ruin a person’s life.  Here’s his answer:

We were looking at the laws, and this was the only crime that was a fit.  That doesn’t mean they will be convicted of a felony.

A prosecutor has a sworn ethical obligation, though, not to merely seek a conviction, but to act in the best interest of justice on behalf of ” The People of the State of Colorado.”   It would seem charging an individual with a crime that is admittedly overkill just because later he can leverage it to force a misdemeanor plea bargain, fails this ethics test.

And these life-shattering concerns are not just theoretical.  Before even being charged, Katie Brazelton has reportedly already lost her job as a private school teacher in Vail.  I learned from Google that Brazelton was the Development Director for  SOS Outreach, which according to their website is the “country’s largest winter and summer sports-based youth development charity.”  But when I opened the link, no Katie.  SOS erased Brazelton’s sordid presence from their website as soon as Hurlbert threatened to file, as I discovered from this cached copy Google captured just two days before.

Here’s SOS’ description of Katie Brazelton’s achievements and work:

Katie started her work with SOS as a curriculum consultant during the summer of 2009. She has lived in the Vail Valley since 2004 and worked in educational administrative roles at both a private school and the non-profit world.  She received her undergraduate in 1991 in education from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, and in 2005 completed her Master’s Degree in School Administration. Katie values her time in assisting with the development of programs that provide underprivileged youth with life-long skills and opportunities.

Well, thankfully, Mark Hurlbert stopped Brazelton dead her in her tracks before she continued with any more activities like this.  We can all sleep better at night now.  I don’t know any details about Wendy Lyall, other than everyone seems to like her, she has never committed any crimes, and she’s extremely fit.  And now she’s been charged with a felony.

Interview with Race Organizer Ken Chlouber

Lake County Sheriff Ed Holte promptly responded to my open records act request, and we are the  first to report on the investigation.  It began on March 2, 2010, when  race organizer Ken Chlouber wrote a letter to the Sheriff outlining concerns he’d confirmed from a tip that “two women had lied, cheated and stolen by fraudulently exchanging identities for entry”  into the race.  Chlouber’s letter sets out the

Ken Chlouber - Leadville 100 Race President

possibilities of how the women could have gotten through the identification procedures, and closes with a request for prosecution on theft of services for the $250 in race fees, $225 in awards, plus racer services, including aid stations, security, and a pre-race banquet.

It seems to me that adding in both the race fee and the services provided to racers would be double-counting. On the other hand, Chlouber sounds like he has a better handle on what law might “fit” than Hurlbert. I read the theft of services statute (CRS 18-4-401), and as long as the value of the property taken by “deception” is less than $1,000,  it’s a misdemeanor.

Chlouber writes, “the integrity of the race results was extremely damaged.”  Yet, those results couldn’t be clearer now.  He calls the actions of the two women “disgusting beyond comprehension.”  I’ve seen a lot worse.  Chlouber says, “the two women riders that rightfully should have accepted 2nd and 3rd will never have that moment [on the podium].”  But Chlouber himself devised a solution to this problem by staging a special awards ceremony for them this August.  Undoubtedly they’ll get plenty of spotlight after this debacle.

In short, most if not all the concerns expressed by Chlouber to the Sheriff in March have been rectified.  And the message of deterrence Chlouber wants to send already got delivered loud and clear to the women involved, and to racers throughout the country.

Settlement Discussions Already Underway

Sheriff Holte then passed along the case to the DA in April,  and notably Holte did not recommend charging Brazelton, only Lyall.  Chlouber was adamant in speaking with me that he never wanted jail time for either woman and certainly didn’t want felony charges.   He hadn’t even considered the possibility of a felony “until Hurlbert came out with these charges.” Chlouber also told me it was “overblown” to charge a felony.

According to Chlouber,  negotiations are underway and took place yesterday between DA Hurlbert and the parties.  Chlouber anticipates the case might settle as early as today, and predicted it will settle for something relatively minor,  with no jail time.

What would Chlouber like to see happen?   He wants a written apology to the two displaced racers and a full explanation of the mechanics of how the identity swap occurred.  He wants to know who was up there on the podium receiving the coveted awards, and if it was Lyall,  was Katie sitting in the stands watching?   He wants to know whether Lyall used Brazelton’s I.D., or whether Brazelton entered with her own I.D., and later provided the racer wrist band and bike numbers to Lyall.  He wasn’t completely clear whether he wants a criminal charge.

Update: 5-13- Ken Chlouber would like to see criminal charges dropped if the disclosure and apology conditions are met, and he believes Hurlbert will agree to same.  More details in a comment I posted on Ken Chlouber’s behalf.

Chlouber rejected the suggestion he said some have made for Lyall and Brazelton to appear at the 2010 event ceremony and perform a public mea culpa for the spectators, calling such a spectacle a humiliating “public flogging.”  He also doesn’t want to see heavy fines or “doing something to them worse than what they’ve already done to themselves.”

Laura Victoria’s Verdict

Given the sanctions uniquely available within competitive sports for rules violations, the criminal law is out of place except in rare circumstances, such as a boxer biting off an opponent’s ear.   Chlouber himself has already used his role as race president to rectify most of his concerns.  So I think Chlouber’s remaining concerns are exaggerated, though he seems sincere, even passionate.

But it is precisely the role of the DA to look objectively at the facts,  and divorce himself from the emotion any alleged victim might genuinely feel.   In addition, a  prosecutor needs to do more than scour the criminal code to see if some square peg behavior might “fit” into a round legal hole.  He needs to decide if that “fit” is a just one for all concerned, including the accused and the taxpayers.

Prosecutorial pursuits must be prioritized.  And some pursuits shouldnt be pursued at all.  The remedies sought by Ken Chlouber, combined with what the women have already endured,  should  sufficiently deter future misconduct.   Hurlbert should not pursue any criminal charges, including misdemeanors, against either Wendy Lyall or Katie Brazelton.

Update:  5-12, 11:30 a.m.  After learning Hurlbert has now come up with the ludicrous felony conspiracy charge against Brazelton, all I can say is Hurlbert has exceeded even my expectations for poor judgment.

[Ed: Many readers and bloggers in the mountain bike racing community have expressed major doubts about the seriousness of the alleged conduct of Lyall and Brazelton.  Many don’t like the way  Chlouber runs the event, and believe he’s inconsistent in his concern for rules when big names are involved.  Some question various financial aspects of the event, and some bemoan the graded dirt and lack of singletrack.  Links and comments are here, in an updated article.  Also see the comment I posted based on 5-13 follow-up interview with Ken Chlouber.]

DA Mark Hurlbert Charges Two Top Women Mountain Bike Racers with Felony Criminal Impersonation for Using False Racer Number in Leadville Competition: Snowball DA Strikes Again – UPDATED

DA Mark Hurlbert filed felony criminal-impersonation charges against two veteran Vail, Colorado,  mountain bike racers, Wendy Lyall and Katie Brazelton,  after an injured Brazelton, 40, gave her registration materials and entry number  to her friend, Lyall, 36, so she could race

Wendy Lyall Faces Felony for "1383" on Bike in Leadville 100 (Photo Courtesy Rob O'Dea, who holds and reserves all copyrights)

in the 2009 Leadville  Mountain Trail 100 .   This meant that Lyall  finished second in the women’s age 40-49 class, despite being 36.  As the Denver Post explains, spaces are highly coveted for the grueling race, and there are more masochists than slots for the competition, which elevated in prestige last year as Lance Armstrong entered and won the event.

The soaring popularity has converted the race’s entry lottery into a gone-in-minutes clamor for bib numbers. Entries are not refundable or transferable, which is reiterated at every pre-race briefing, [race organizer] Chlouber said.

Just before last August’s race, Chlouber said he received a call from a local bike-shop owner pleading for an entry number for Brazelton, who did not win a slot in the lottery. Chlouber granted the request.

“This truly is really sad for us,” he said. “We try to do the right thing, and then people cheat.”

Certainly some athletes cheat, but I naïvely thought that these sports rules violations were usually handled within the sport rather than being prosecuted as felonies by local DAs.  But then again, Hurlbert himself spends lots of time on the men’s 40-49 cross-country skiing circuit , so this “crime”  probably hit him close to home.  I wouldn’t want to be some 36-year old guy caught skating past him across the finish line in the Frisco Gold Rush nordic race, that’s for sure.

But it looked like the event organizers did take care of the problem from within:

When contacted by Chlouber and, later, by Lake County Sheriff Ed Holte, the women confessed to the deception. They returned the coveted belt buckle, pendant and necklace that came with second place and sent Chlouber a letter admitting their wrongdoing and offering “to do anything to rectify the situation.”

“But the situation cannot be rectified,” Chlouber said. “You can’t go back in time and give those ladies who should have podiumed their time in the sun. That’s gone.”

Well, not exactly.   The women who should have been on the podium, will be there this year in a special ceremony at the August event.  And, both Lyall and Brazelton are banned for life from the competition and may receive other intra-sport sanctions.   If organizers want more action taken, that’s what private civil lawsuits are for.  [Update 5-10: Sheriff Ed Holte told me he did not contact either of the women or take a confession from them and had no contact with them whatsoever.  He simply took Chlouber’s complaint and passed it along to the DA.   It seems clear, then, that this was primarily a Hurlbert transaction].

Hurlbert says, “after talking with people in the race, this is something very serious.”  Very serious to whom?  The plaintiff in the case,  The People of the State of Colorado?  Do we the people really need to have our  money spent in a recession to protect us from the growing scourge of entry swapping at endurance sports events?   Real criminal filings are down, Hurlbert’s budgets and salary are up, and I guess this is what happens when government has too much of our money to play with.  Good thing he’s not the Denver DA or we might see “illegal receiver” at a Bronco’s game take on a whole new meaning.

[Updated 5-10: More details about how this race is run and what may really have happened with the registrations of the racers, are commented on  by some Eagle County mountain biking bloggers, who point to a $265.00 non-refundable and non-transferable fee, which Chlouber allegedly resells to other racers.   The latest is from Eric Rubottom.  The comments section to this post contain more inside-mountain bike racing insight.

Race Director  Ken Chlouber is  a former House District 56 Rep.,  a  Republican who often went against the Republican party on issues he disagreed with.  He served from 1986-1996, and was a state Senator before that.  Chlouber failed in another  run for HD 56  in 2006].

I’ve  written elsewhere that Hurlbert “picks the wrong battles to fight, and the wrong ones to quit.”  Just like the infamous snowball throwing case at Copper that gained international notoriety, and left Hurlbert whining defensively after his lengthy and expensive pursuit ended in failure.  This laughingstock  is mocked in this Hitler parody video of Hurlbert.  (Like other Hitler parody producers, we are involved with a “fair use” copyright appeal,  so just click on the link on the screen after hitting play, and the video will play in its own window).

Wendy and Katie (aka Vail’s Thelma and Louise) would have been much better off  if instead of committing a serious felony like cheating at mountain biking, they snowboarded drunk down the slopes of Vail and ran over an eight-year old girl in a hit and run.  That man got a few hours of community service in Hurlbert’s plea deal.  Or they could have been charged with attempted murder, and got that plead down to a misdemeanor with no jail.  Another option would be to pull a black woman by her hair across a bar room floor, tearing half of it out while screaming the c-word and the n-word at her.  They could have gotten that felony assault reduced to a misdemeanor with 60 days of work release.

I haven’t seen this criminal-impersonation law used much, but Hurlbert’s expansive application of the statute opens up some interesting possibilities.  Given Hurlbert’s lackluster campaign for state Senate District 16 and his dismal fundraising,  perhaps a  special prosecutor should be appointed to investigate whether to charge Hurlbert with felony criminal-impersonation of a Republican  Senate candidate.