DA candidates spar over ‘spurious’ criminal claims
October 19, 2016
EAGLE — A couple legal molehills are being kicked into mountains in the district attorney's campaigns.
A pair of decades-old misdemeanors by Democratic incumbent Bruce Brown and Republican challenger Bruce Carey is making the district attorney's race the most contentious in memory.
Independent candidate Sanam Mehrnia has no criminal record of any kind.
Brown was charged with misdemeanor theft for stealing a plant worth about $50 in Vail when he was 21.
Carey was fined $47 for a 1993 case in which he was representing a Leadville man in a DUI case.
It was early Dec. 16, 2015, when Brown was driving the company car, a Jeep Cherokee, through Dowd Junction, on his way to Eagle. Brown slid on an icy curve and totaled the car.
Brown contacted Vail police, then the Colorado State Patrol, who told him to file a report online, which he did later that day. A local towing company hauled the Jeep to a body shop in Gypsum.
The accident report notes that there was no accident alert, the damage was in excess of $1,000 and did not involve private property. Under the section titled "Personal statement," it reads "online submission approved by Cpl. Marion." Citing a state law covering reporting traffic accidents, Brown's opponents insist it's illegal to leave the scene of an accident if there is public property damage. They say that because the Jeep was a company car with the District Attorney's Office, it was public property and Brown should not have left.
Brown has said repeatedly that he did nothing wrong.
"The accident has been reported," Brown told the Summit Daily News. "In my opinion, I followed the law to the letter."
Carey calls the bribery charges against him "spurious," brought by the district attorney at the time as reprisal because Carey considering running against him.
Carey said he was targeted by wire conversations as many as 10 times and that he didn't offer up a bribe, although he did solicit Rodney Fenske's help, Leadville police chief in 1993 and now Lake County sheriff.
Carey was having trouble getting a better deal from deputy District Attorney Lindsey Topper for his DUI client. The deal included jail time that Carey said would derail his client's efforts to get his life back on track. He wanted Fenske to pressure the deputy into softening up.
In a transcript from recorded conversations, Fenske told Carey he wanted to get a seeing-eye dog for his blind brother in Arizona, but could not afford the $1,200 price. On a recording, Fenske suggested a donation to help his brother buy the dog, and he'd "pressure the s— out of Lindsey."
On the recordings, Carey said he could make a donation through a charity that handles that sort of thing.
"I got duped. I was trying to help a client and I got duped," Carey said.
Fenske has not commented to the Summit Daily News or the Vail Daily.
Carey also asked police officers from Leadville and Eagle to not show up to clients' DMV hearings, a common practice at the time. Chip McCrory, the special prosecutor from Aspen assigned to handle the case in 1992, called it "standard operating procedure" in the Fifth Judicial District at the time.
AJ Johnson was Eagle County sheriff at the time, and said his deputies could attend DMV hearings at their discretion. He added that he was aware of attorneys occasionally asking deputies to consider skipping hearings, and that generally he didn't see that to be a problem.
The Colorado State Supreme Court fined Carey $47.75.
Jack Queen is a writer with the Summit Daily News and has been covering the District Attorney campaign.