Eagle County Sheriff to be represented by firm that defended Kobe Bryant
James van Beek fighting petty offense charge brought forth by the DA
EAGLE — The law firm that defended Kobe Bryant against rape charges will defend Eagle County Sheriff James van Beek against petty offense allegations.
David Kaplan, from the Denver firm Haddon, Morgan and Foreman, has more than 30 years of criminal defense experience and was the chief state public defender. He will serve as van Beek’s lead defense attorney, according to court documents.
Kaplan and law firm partner Pamela Mackey, Bryant’s lead defense attorney, declined comment Monday.
“Haddon, Morgan and Foreman, P.C., is a very well-respected criminal defense firm. David Kaplan has had a long and distinguished career as the former state public defender. We feel Sheriff Van Beek is in great hands and look forward to working with David and his team,” Eagle County Attorney Bryan Treu said Monday in a statement.
Ben Sollars, assistant district attorney for the Ninth Judicial District — Garfield, Pitkin and Rio Blanco counties — will handle the prosecution. Fifth Judicial District Attorney Bruce Brown asked for a special prosecutor, saying he might be a witness in the case.
Sollars nor the Ninth Judicial District staff returned phone calls Monday.
Van Beek has vowed to fight the allegations.
“Our office will be fighting it because it implies dishonesty, which as an elected official, is unacceptable and against my values,” van Beek said in a statement.
Van Beek is Eagle County’s only elected Republican. District Attorney Brown is a Democrat.
Van Beek’s first court appearance is 9 a.m. Aug. 30 before Eagle County Court Judge Rachel Fresquez.
Van Beek faces petty offense
Kaplan represented former El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa when Maketa was acquitted on three charges, including witness tampering, conspiracy to commit witness tampering and official misconduct.
The allegations against van Beek do not rise to the level of those Maketa faced. Van Beek is charged with a petty offense stemming from allegations over the way he handled spending from a reserve account containing money seized by the Sheriff’s Office.
Brown convinced a grand jury that van Beek might be improperly spending money from that reserve fund. Brown insisted that he should have been part of any spending decisions.
Van Beek says the allegations stem from a “misinterpretation by the district attorney about the review process of confiscated monies and specifically when a committee needs to be convened for additional approval.”
Van Beek and Brown are two of the three committee members who oversee that reserve fund. Eagle County Attorney Bryan Treu is the third.
The indictment claims that forfeited local money in that forfeiture fund was co-mingled with forfeited state funds.
Not possible, says Treu, who says the fund hasn’t contained any forfeited state money since 2012.
The allegations include 14 previously approved expenditures from the reserve fund, made in 2019, including donations to local high school booster clubs, regional little league baseball leagues, and a new freezer for the jail.
Van Beek argues that because that reserve fund contains no state confiscated money, the three-member board does not need to approve money spent from it.
The approved expenditures also included paying a writer for columns for the Vail Daily. Those columns in the Daily appeared under van Beek’s byline and with his photo. However, they are the work of Jacqueline Cartier, who also previously wrote columns for the Vail Daily under her own byline and ran for a seat as a Republican on the Eagle County Board of Commissioners in 2018, against Democrat incumbent Jeanne McQueeney.
A little about Kaplan
Kaplan graduated the University of Denver College of Law in 1982 and served as a deputy state public defender in the Denver trial office. He went on to practice criminal law in both state and federal courts.
In 2000, Kaplan returned to public service when he was appointed Colorado state public defender, handling 270 criminal defense attorneys. He joined Haddon, Morgan and Foreman in 2006.