Archibeque decides to ‘stop the damage’; misdemeanor plea ends year-long ordeal | VailDaily.com

Archibeque decides to ‘stop the damage’; misdemeanor plea ends year-long ordeal

Ted Archibeque wipes away a tear in the hall outside the courtroom, where he was surrounded by friends during Thursday's hearing. After more than a year and fighitng off four felony charges, Archibeque settled for a misdemeanor and a $500 fine because, he said, he wanted to stop the damage and start healing.

EAGLE — Ted Archibeque said that after he lost his family, his home, his brother killed himself and legal fees forced him into bankruptcy, it was time stop the damage.

Archibeque took a misdemeanor plea, he said, because he wants to get on with his life. He originally faced four felonies in connection with his brother Tom's marijuana operation in Sweetwater. Ted pleaded not guilty to all counts, and two different judges dismissed the most serious charges.

District Court Judge Paul Dunkelman, one of those judges, gave Archibeque the minimum fine, $500. Archibeque's trial was scheduled to begin Monday, Feb. 5.

More than 50 people packed the courtroom Thursday afternoon, Jan. 25, to support Archibeque.

"I stand here today in faith, my integrity is in tact. The DA has a history of going after public officials. While public officials are not above the law, they should not be targeted either. We both know this case has no probable cause," Archibeque told Dunkelman during Thursday's hearing.

"Every day I live under this official oppression. It negatively impacts my life, my kids' life, my kids' mother's life, my family and friends and the community because of the waste of tax dollars," Archibeque said.

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"My brother killed himself because of this situation. In an effort to stop the damage from this targeting, I'm falling on my sword today. I ask that you end any further damage," Archibeque told Dunkelman.

Politics as unusual

Archibeque, Eagle County's Republican county surveyor, said the prosecution was "politically motivated."

District Attorney Bruce Brown, a Democrat, bristled at the notion.

"The insinuation of political motive is nonsense," Brown said. "This office repeatedly has made decisions to prosecute elected officials over the past five years, including prosecution of a county commissioner (not in Eagle County), a Democrat like me, who had to resign as a result of his guilty plea to embezzlement, without regard to politics. That's what a prosecutor does, putting blinders on when determining whether or not to file criminal charges. That's exactly what we did here."

However, an offer on March 6, 2017, from the District Attorney's office indicated a potential political element. If Archibeque had agreed to plead guilty to a felony drug charge and resign as Eagle County surveyor, he would not have to serve jail time, the plea deal said.

Archibeque would also have had to agree not run for public office for two years.

"Simultaneous with the entry of the plea, Mr. Archibeque must tender his resignation as the county surveyor and must not run for public office during the term of the deferred judgement (sic) and sentence. After the period of the deferred is up, there will be no restrictions on whether he runs for public office. If he does not wish to resign, then the plea will be just to straight count 2, no deferred judgment," the plea deal said.

Archibeque made it clear at the time that he would never plead guilty to a felony.

Brown remained unconvinced and offered Archibeque a chance to try the case before a jury.

"By accepting a guilty plea, the Court found that the evidence supported a conviction, a fact that Mr. Archibeque now contests," Brown said. "We routinely reduce charges for persons who accept responsibility and lack a criminal past. We did not treat Mr. Archibeque any differently. However, in light of Mr. Archibeque's protestations of innocence, we may have made a mistake.

"Therefore, I will publicly offer Mr. Archibeque an opportunity if he wants to reverse his plea to come back to the Court tomorrow, I will personally ask the Court to set aside the guilty plea and set the case for trial. I never want an innocent man to have a conviction on his record.

"I am hopeful that Archbieque complies with the terms of the agreement and is able to earn a dismissal of all charges on his good behavior," Brown said. "I'm sure he has contributed to Eagle County community in his capacity as surveyor and believe that other than this episode, he has led a life that is crime free."

Healing begins

Instead of the risks of trial, Archibeque entered a plea to one misdemeanor count of making available property for unlawful manufacture of marijuana.

Tom Archibeque's trial was scheduled for later this year, separately from Ted's.

"Had Thomas Archibeque gone to trial, the truth about Ted's noninvolvement in the marijuana grow would have been apparent," said Marnie Adams, Ted Archibeque's attorney. "However, with the tragic suicide of his brother, Ted Archibeque just wants to put the torture of false and overblown allegations behind him and begin to heal from the tragedy of it all."

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vaildaily.com.