Tag Archives: Sheriff Ed Holte

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.

Editorial: DA Mark Hurlbert’s Delay in Charging Leadville Deputy Who Tased Students Displays Pattern of Unaccountability – Why and How Lake County Should Oppose Hurlbert for State Senate

Lake County Sheriff Ed Holte has not retracted his statements to me that DA Investigator Rick Wallingford told him no later than April 15, that DA Mark Hurlbert’s investigation of Leadville student tasing by former Deputy John Ortega was complete.  Holte told me Wallingford recommended Hurlbert charge Ortega with 15 misdemeanor counts, eight for child abuse and seven for reckless endangerment.

Hurlbert was on an out-of-state-vacation that week of April 12-16.  He attended a campaign event upon his return to Colorado on April 17.  Hurlbert claims the Ortega investigation was not completed until April 21, while he was in the middle of a week-long, intensive national drug court training seminar from April 19-23.

Hurlbert’s Delay in the Ortega Prosecution and Lack of Public Accountability

Here is Hurlbert’s entire statement on the Ortega investigation, which he provided to me on April 22:

“The Office of the District Attorney completed our investigation of the tazer incident yesterday.  We are currently reviewing the reports to see if we can file charges.  There are currently no charges filed.  We will make a decision on whether to file charges next week.”

Before leaving it at that, however, I asked Hurlbert to explain why, and not just tell the public what he was going to do.  The public deserved and expected an explanation for the delay.   Why did he need a week after receiving the report even if he’s right and Holte’s wrong about when the investigation was completed? Anyone with common sense knows that if a private citizen had tased as many as 30 kids at their behest, he would have been arrested immediately and charged within a couple of days.  Perhaps between being DA, a state Senate candidate, and his need for vacations and training, Hurlbert is spreading himself too thin. Maybe his battery is weak and needs a charge.

I explained to Hurlbert the concerns of  many in the Leadville community, including the mayor, that this headline-grabbing case hanging out there could be damaging to their tourism industry.  I questioned whether these concerns were entering into his time frame for charging the case.

But Hurlbert did not respond.  This imperious attitude is nothing new.  Hurlbert almost never feels he needs to explain his actions. He’s used to issuing press releases to the Summit or Vail Daily, which they dutifully roll out, no questions asked.

Hurlbert’s Performance as DA

Hurlbert was also slow off the mark about whether to file charges against Deputy Steven James or Leadville Fire Captain Dan Dailey.  Hurlbert charged James with three misdemeanor counts for allegedly obstructing Dailey in his duties when he arrested him upon Dailey’s arrival at the scene of a medical emergency and Dailey refused to leave.  Hurlbert declined to prosecute Dailey.  That incident occurred on March 27, and Hurlbert announced his filing of charges against James on April 14.

I praised Hurlbert for that decision.  Many Lake County residents did as well.  I should have emphasized, though, the bulk of that praise was not for charging James, but for not charging Dailey.  Dropping the entire spat and not charging either one was my original “verdict.”  I refrained then from bringing up Hurlbert’s delay.

Unfortunately, Hurlbert’s decision to charge James may have been prompted by political perception,  rather than community concerns.  Hurlbert told the Leadville Herald before deciding  the case, “Politics don’t concern me at all.”  That should have been a red flag that politics was front and center for this career politician.  The decision to charge James could have been right or wrong, I don’t know.  I agree that Dailey should not have been charged, and I also don’t think he should have had to wait and worry about it for more than two weeks.

Hurlbert’s decision to charge James appeared at the time as a welcome change in Hurlbert’s pattern of failing to charge law enforcement when they have abused their authority or  members of the public, and charging the abused members of the public instead. Then again, Dailey was another government official, making things politically trickier for Hurlbert. That scene of demonstrating firefighters from around the state may have crossed his mind.

Contrast this case of a woman with no criminal history shoved off of her bicycle by a State Trooper on the bike path in Dillon.  This  pattern has been typical in Summit and was reported to me by Leadville Mayor Bud Elliott and local attorneys as common in Lake, as well.  And of course, I assumed Hurlbert would promptly charge Deputy John Ortega for the student tasings, not delay doing anything for three weeks.  I also assumed that the decision would herald a new level of candor with the public.  I was wrong.

Run through a search of the Summit and Vail Daily articles on Hurlbert’s  criminal cases and note how he rarely explain his decisions, except to defend himself in the face of absurdly pursued cases, like this infamous Copper Mountain snowball trial.  You won’t find much concern expressed for victims of violent crimes, or people found not guilty after having their lives turned upside down and their bank accounts emptied.  He was also unapologetic about the woman shoved off her bike.

The Lake County cases don’t get as much media exposure, but  residents are aware of them. You’ll also notice by its absence, any detailed bragging by Hurlbert about his record as DA. We can rest assured, if there were much to brag about, we would have heard it by now, more than three months since Hurlbert announced for state Senate.

What Lake County Can Do About Hurlbert

Lake County should be proud that it single-handedly prevented Hurlbert from getting the term limit extension he sought last year.   Once again, Lake County can help halt Hurlbert’s political pursuits.

Though Hurlbert has sought to portray himself as a small government, fiscal conservative, the evidence proves otherwise.  He has increased his budgets every year, even though case filings have dropped precipitously during the recession.  He also supported legislation that increased his own pay from $80,000 in 2008, to $100,000 in 2009, and $110,000 in 2010. That’s a 37.5 percent increase in two years in the middle of a recession, plus the 13 percent PERA retirement plan and other benefits.

Lake County, of course, is not part of state Senate District 16, but that doesn’t mean residents can’t influence this important  election.  After all, state Senators vote on measures that affect

Hurlbert opponent, Tim Leonard, with Two-Year Old Daughter, Isabella, at Jeffco Assembly

the entire state.  This editorial appeal is not limited to Lake County residents, but to all Coloradans.

Besides encouraging friends and family who live in SD 16 to vote for Hurlbert’s opponent, Tim Leonard, in the August GOP primary, you can make donations or do volunteer work for his campaign.  Tim Leonard is a fiscally conservative, libertarian-oriented businessman from Evergreen.  He’s got tea party support, and has campaigned more successfully than Hurlbert (maybe because he doesn’t take so much time off).  His website is full of material about his views on the issues, including cutting the size of  government and excessive police and nanny-state power. Compare it to Hurlbert’s issue-free site.

Even if you’re a liberal Democrat and would vote for Jeanne Nicholson in the November election, Nicholson is unopposed in the primary. Supporting Leonard before August can help make sure Hurlbert doesn’t get to the general election.

One of Hurlbert’s wealthy supporters from outside Lake County, Colorado Treasurer

Ali Hasan: "Mark, you're the best DA in the World!"

candidate Muhammed Ali Hasan,  has already been spouting off falsehoods throughout Colorado presuming to know what Lake County voters think of Hurlbert:

Mark Hurlbert is, indeed, the best DA in America – I honestly believe that just about everyone in Eagle, Summit, Lake, and Clear Creek would agree (which is why he is going to win SD16)

Really?  The “best DA in America”?   And almost everyone in Lake and the other counties would agree?   But this is less hyperbolic than before, where Hasan is on video here,  from 2009 in his home town of Beaver Creek, shouting out “Mark, you’re the best DA in the world.”  And this guy wants to be in charge of all of Colorado’s money,  with absolutely no background in economics or finance?

Hasan has plenty of reason to support Hurlbert so fervently – Hurlbert declined to file charges against Hasan in a controversial 2008 incident involving harassment and computer hacking charges by his former girlfriend.  Despite his personal and political relationship with Hasan, Hurlbert failed to hand the case over to a special prosecutor.  And of course, in keeping with the cavalier attitude befitting the best DA in the world, Hurlbert failed to address this obvious appearance of impropriety.

Since Mark Hurlbert has done nothing to rein in his flamboyant supporter’s over-the-top statements to the rest of Colorado about Lake County’s supposed almost unanimous support for him, Lake County citizens should feel  free to tell Colorado what they really feel about Hurlbert.

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.

Leadville Deputy Suspended for Tasing Students: Leadville Lunacy Limitless, as Dumb Deputy, Arrest of Fire Captain Put Lake County, Colo. Sheriff in Hot Seat – UPDATED 4-10

Maybe it’s the thin air in Leadville, Colo., but within the span of a week,  a Lake County Sheriff’s department deputy tasered 30 school students and has been suspended, and another Sheriff’s officer arrested

Lake County Sheriffs arrest Capt. Dan Dailey while Treating a Domestic Violence Victim

a Leadville City firefighter/EMT responding to a medical emergency.  The picturesque, but frigid and oxygen-deprived town, Elev. 10,200′,   also lays claim as the  home town of  terror defendant,  “Jihad” Jamie Paulin-Ramirez.  We covered her indictment the day it happened, and included an earlier interview I conducted with the previously unheralded Leadville Police Sergeant, Saige Thomas, whose early efforts investigating the case helped lead to Paulin-Ramirez’ ultimate capture.   Quite a bit of legal action in one week for the tiny mountain town.

I’m really not making this up, but the taser incident occurred Thursday during a career fair in which Deputy John Ortega was apparently demonstrating his idea of how fun

Denver Post File Photo

and rewarding it can be to enter law enforcement to a group of clinically masochistic Leadville school students.  According to Denver’s 9 News, S met M as follows:

According to school administrators, the students asked the deputy to shock them so they knew what it felt like.

Two of the students received minor burns and were taken to a local hospital. They were treated and released.

A student says one female student was shocked seven times at her request.

Since 9 News fails to explain it, a “dry tase” is a “pain-compliance” technique where the taser is switched into a special mode called “stun-drive mode” and the LEO presses it against a suspect’s body, rather than shooting an electric barb from a distance.  The latter is a disabling technique.  A dry stun, however, inflicts severe pain and often injury, as occurred here, with the aim of getting a resisting suspect to voluntarily submit so as not to receive any more pain.  The dry stun has also been used inappropriately in some instances as a form of punishment.  Readers can find lots of material on the topic via Google.

Updated: The Denver Post has updated story.  (Denver Post repeats Taser International propaganda that taser is “non-lethal.”  Tell that to all the people dead from tasers.  They’re “less lethal”  than guns, and were designed as a gun substitute, though real-world usage has expanded enormously.  Google to find out more).

As if all of this weren’t idiotic enough, the deputy, who’s supposed to have basic knowledge of criminal law, played Career Fair lawyer for the kids too, and reportedly drafted his own waiver for them to sign.  Umm, Deputy Dumbo, minors can’t waive liability for child endangerment or child abuse, a point Sheriff Holte agreed with when I spoke with him.  It’s analogous to “consenting” to sex with an adult–that would be statutory rape.

Update:  9 News spoke with DA Mark Hurlbert: And he agrees with what I said yesterday about the  appropriateness of child abuse charges:   “What we are looking at is child abuse charges, even if there is talk the kids consented, kids can’t consent to being abused,” Hurlbert said.

Probable cause obviously exists for his arrest, and if a private citizen were asked by a kid to slug him in the mouth, and he did, he would have been immediately arrested.  Sheriff has instead tossed the ball in DA Mark Hurlbert’ court, the Denver Post is reporting.  That implies the guy will only receive a summons to appear in court, since DAs can’t arrest people the last time I checked.  This double standard treatment is disgusting, and clearly not the fault of the DA.  I’ve seen other cases where cops were arrested by members of their own departments.

Update: This story is breaking fast. Leadville Police may be getting involved, Leadville PD Chief out of pocket, cell phone going into voice mail.  Update 4-10: Leadville PD will probably not be handling, based on combined reports, and DA Mark Hurlbert will be conducting both investigations because of local feud between City and County, neutrality needed. The DA’s office does employ its own investigative staff.

Update: Sheriff Holte, based on a press release distributed late yesterday, and comments made to other media has now lost some of the praise I gave him for candor.  He’s minimizing the tasing, he failed to make the arrest he should have made, and he is actually quoted as saying the Ortega is “intelligent.”  Guess Chief Holte’s definition is different than mine, and includes IQs around the 75 mark.

In contrast with Deputy Ortega,  Lake County Sheriff Ed Holte did use intelligence and common sense in the incident by placing Ortega on unpaid administrative leave, pending DA Hurlbert’s investigation, Holte told me this morning.  He also did a couple of other things that law enforcement officials don’t often do even with the most blatant videotaped evidence of misconduct:  He didn’t provide a knee jerk defense of the conduct and he released the deputy’s name.  The latter is important not just to provide equal treatment for all, but because without a name media and public follow-up on the case is severely hampered.  Court officials generally need a name to look up a case.

New Blog Feature:  Laura  Victoria’s Verdict

Ortega needs to be arrested on preliminary charges.   DA Hurlbert must be sorting through the number of counts by finding out the number of victims, which makes sense.

He should be charged with a few counts soon, and the others can be added later via an amended complaint.   The proof is obvious, the legal violations blatant,  and most importantly, it is critical for public transparency to show the public that law enforcement don’t get special treatment in the Fifth District, unlike in some jurisdictions like Denver and Aurora, Chicago, D.C., Prince Georges County, Md., New York and, come to think of it, the majority of jurisdictions in the U.S.  Google for now, I’ll post some links later.  This is live blogging.

Should Ortega go to jail?  Yes, but maybe not for a lengthy period.  Stupidity should be treated more leniently than malice.  He needs to be arrested now just like a private citizen that pays his salary would be.  He can then bail out and await complete charges once the DA completes his investigation.

As to the firing part,  no amount of remedial training can eradicate stupidity this severe, and the sadistic tendencies are disturbing.  I like to give folks second chances, and maybe he’s a nice guy and all, but he needs a new job where he’s disarmed.  The public interest needs to come before the public employee interest.  Probably no need to fill the vacancy either, save the taxpayers some money.  The money saved should go to a publicly funded oxygen bar for Leadville’s downtown core, and one in the Lake County Court House.

Leadville Fire Captain Arrested for Obstructing

Sheriff  Holte already had enough on his hands before Ortega’s antics.  About a week before the S & M career fair,  another Lake County Sheriff’s officer arrested rival Leadville City Fire Captain Dan Dailey, who based on a an analysis of the evidence, was the first responder on the scene of an injury from a domestic violence case.  Daily is a well-respected EMT.  Channel 7 has the best coverage on this one.  Good coverage too at the DP.  The best part is Captain Dailey was released from jail so he could go back to the scene where they needed his expert medical help.  According to the DP, Hurlbert was to announce his filing decision early this past week.  My sources told me it would take longer than that, and my sources appear correct, as no filing announcement has yet been made.

Laura Victoria’s Verdict

Whether a legal technicality like obstruction can be proved or not doesn’t matter.  It’s a stupid case against a respected EMT firefighter simply trying to do his job.  I spoke with Leadville  Mayor Bud Elliott, and he was passionate and persuasive.  The DA has lots of discretion, and should save Captain Dailey the agony of waiting and wondering about his career, and no-file the case.

This will also free up time needed to sort through DA Hurlbert’s other headache, the Deputy Ortega child abuse charges.  If the 30 victim number is roughly correct, that could result in I would imagine at least a 90-count complaint.  Mark  Hurlbert should be added as an additional victim of Lake County Sheriff’s office incompetence.  Too bad Hurlbert can’t charge Ortega with “Felony Dumb.”