Bruce Carey challenging to lead Colorado’s Fifth Judicial District | VailDaily.com

Bruce Carey challenging to lead Colorado’s Fifth Judicial District

EAGLE — Bruce Carey learned to lead by example as a sergeant in the United States Army, and he said he would bring that attitude to the district attorney's office.

Carey, a Republican, is running against incumbent Bruce Brown, a Democrat, and Frisco attorney Sanam Mehrnia, an independent, to be the top cop in Eagle, Summit, Lake and Clear Creek counties, Colorado's 5th Judicial District.

"I spent four years in the United States Army and learned that you lead by example," Carey said.

Carey, a sergeant in a mortar platoon, is a Vietnam-era veteran who spent his overseas time in Germany. He served under presidents Ford, Carter and Reagan.

"When I was a sergeant and platoon leader in the Army, I ate last. That philosophy will be carried through to the district attorney's office," Carey said.

Carey has been an attorney for 27 years and cut his teeth with a stint in the district attorney's office after he moved to Eagle County in 1989. The DA has complete power over the cases that are prosecuted and how they are prosecuted, Carey said.

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"No case should be lost by the DA's office. If they don't believe in the case beyond a reasonable doubt, then they should dismiss it," Carey said. "It is the charge of the district attorney to seek justice, not to seek convictions."

Carey said he would also eliminate the grand jury and that most jurisdictions rarely use it.

"To pass the buck to a grand jury to make charging decisions is cowardly," Carey said.

He said prosecutors would also put a brief explanation on each case file about why they arrived at that charging decision.

Community service

Carey is a big fan of community service and volunteer work to help stop the county jail's revolving door.

"Allowing people with certain errors and offenses to work their way back into the community with extensive community service — that makes them feel involved, and that stake in the community will reduce recidivism," Carey said. "I think if someone spends a Saturday cleaning up a highway, they are less likely to throw trash on that highway."

Carey volunteers extensively. It began with seven years on the county zoning board and stretched to 17 years as a volunteer for the Eagle County Fair & Rodeo board, including board president. The most recent has been his involvement with the Gypsum Recreation Center heart smart program as a volunteer instructor for the past three and a half years.

"Volunteering invests you in the community," Carey said.

That's another reason he wants to expand that part of the justice system to include almost any organization: churches, Habitat for Humanity, police and fire departments. It could be anything, Carey said.

Judge Katharine Sullivan's alternative sentencing DUI and drug courts go a long way toward that, he said. He is also proposing restorative justice programs in which victims and perpetrators would meet with a mediator and air their differences.

He says he would like to put an experienced prosecutor in each office, and each paid attorney in the district would carry a caseload, including him.

He said the DA and assistant DA allow themselves to pick and choose cases. For example, he said there's the murder case where investigators found of the murder weapon under the bed of the alleged murderer.

"That's not a difficult case to prosecute," Carey said.

He wants to hire an experienced sex assault prosecutor to shepherd all sex assault cases throughout the district.

"The quality of justice in the 5th Judicial District has disintegrated under the current DA administration," Carey said. "I feel I can change that and bring back a better quality of prosecution where the emphasis is on reducing recidivism rather than racking up numbers of convictions."

Mistakes were made

It was 1993 and one of Carey's clients was charged with DUI, assault on a peace officer and escape in Leadville.

His client was handcuffed and placed in the back of a patrol car, Carey said.

His client slipped out of the handcuffs and stepped out of the squad car. He strolled over, tapped the officer on the shoulder and turned himself in again.

Apparently, that constituted escape, Carey said.

Carey said he asked the Leadville assistant police chief for help negotiating a plea. The assistant chief said his blind brother needed a guide dog. Carey said he'd be happy to provide one, but it would have to be done through a charitable organization.

For that, Carey said he was charged with bribery.

He negotiated it down to a misdemeanor and has been practicing law in the valley ever since.

"That's why, on my website, it says that charitable donations will not be part of a plea bargain. I consider it buying justice," Carey said.

Carey said he also made the mistake in the early 1990s of asking to negotiate a client's department of motor vehicles hearing, not knowing that it was no longer possible. He got his ears boxed, metaphorically speaking, and says now he'd like to change that.

"As attorneys we can negotiate first degree murder cases and we can negotiate civil cases involving nuclear materials and the aftermath, but we are not permitted to negotiate DMV hearings. I know what the law is, and I do not attempt negotiate DMV hearings. I would like to see that changed," Carey said.

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

District Attorney Candidates

This is the first of three profiles of candidates running for District Attorney in Colorado’s Fifth Judicial District, comprised of Eagle, Summit, Lake and Clear Creek counties.

Tuesday: Republican Bruce Carey

Wednesday: Democrat Bruce Brown

Thursday: Independent Sanam Mehrnia