Rob Andrews: Time for a new district attorney
On October 19, I was summoned for jury duty at the Summit County Justice Center and by the end of the day on October 19 was seated as a juror for the second trial of Dennis Flint. I had previously paid little or no attention to the case. There have been so many headline generating cases in the last few years that involve he said, she said sexual allegations, righteous claims and charges by our District Attorney, and in the end charges dropped, acquittal or hung jury. Who knows, who cares?
After experiencing this trial, I now am among those who care.
One of the witnesses for the prosecution was an FBI agent who worked in the Glenwood Springs office in 2006, the year the alleged incidents occurred. According to the agent (now based in St. Louis), the FBI, with the active support of the Summit County Sheriff Deputies, entered Mr. Flint’s unlocked Blue River residence on July 28, 2006, searched for pornographic evidence as stipulated in the “legally” acquired search warrant, and confiscated two computers. The FBI took the computers to secure storage and did no further investigation of the computers for over one year. The rationale for exercising the search warrant was, to me, convoluted and on shaky legal grounds. If I, as a small business owner, had a disgruntled employee who convinced the FBI that seizing my business computer was appropriate, an FBI agent could easily obtain authority to seize my computer, taking my means of livelihood with no semblance of due process and demonstrate no effort to validate his action for over a year. I would say that the agents of the FBI have been given the power of prosecutor, jury and sentencing judge.
When the authorities finally turned their attention to the seized computers and located the pornographic files for which the search warrant had been exercised, the FBI, despite their excited involvement in the seizure, decided not to investigate further and sent the case back to the state, i.e. our local District Attorney, Mark Hurlbert. No evidence was introduced in court to indicate further investigation, or even research, being done by the District Attorney prior to filing charges against Mr. Flint.
I was astounded when I witnessed Mr. Hurlbert’s fawning questioning of Dawn Flint. He made it clear that, since he had already chosen to ignore any of the obvious conflicts between dates, times and locations in Dawn Flint’s testimony, (“We understand, you were upset”), we as jurors should not even think about the conflicts. In my previously held fantasies about the legal system, I would have expected the district attorney to have identified apparent conflicts by the accuser and in some way rationalized or explained the timelines prior to bringing charges against Mr. Flint. I would have expected a certain skepticism from the district attorney in dealing with a situation involving marital issues and the Flints’ adolescent children.
It became apparent that I was witnessing a very weak case being prosecuted not with evidence but with “feeling” by the prosecution. The combination of authority figures from the FBI, a Front Range pornography Task Force detective and a former Summit County Sheriff’s Deputy being used as foils for the assistant district attorney to demonstrate her ability to insert the words “child pornography” into the public record and the jurors’ minds, the needless projection of hundreds of pornographic images onto the courtroom screen and a prosecution lacking in intellectual rigor added up to a feeling of being part of a college sophomore’s Psychology 201 experiment.
The prosecution refers to itself as “the People.” As one of the people, I expect a person being paid to represent me to have possession of a questioning, fair and skeptical mind. I expect my representative to be sensitive to the power vested in him and to demonstrate prudence in bringing that power to bear on an individual. After the completion of our jury deliberation and the declaration of a mistrial, I talked with over a dozen local citizens about my frustrations. It opened my eyes to the despotic rule of our current district attorney. Obviously, a number of people cited the waste of the peoples’ money spent to provide a facilitator for Kobe Bryant to pay off his accuser. Others cited the flagrant abuse of power in publicizing alleged sexual abuse of a child at the Breckenridge Recreation Center, destroying a young man’s reputation but in the end filing no charges. Another person reminded me of the sensationalism and clumsiness in handling the Eric Rockne case. More recently, many are angry about the recent abuse by the district attorney of the Tibetan masseuse. Again, sensational sexual accusations, business and financial ruin for the accused. Result of jury trial by reasonable people: acquittal.
After the national silliness of the Kobe Bryant trial, many of us have simply looked the other way, thinking: “Oh, it’s just that goofy Mark Hurlbert trying to make a name for himself again.” As a result of my jury service and subsequent discussions, I take responsibility for having looked the other way. I now realize that a substantial part of the justice system is dependent on the willingness of the district attorney to actively investigate slanderous allegations, recognizing the weakness of human nature for both the accused and the accuser. Mr. Hurlbert, graduate of Dartmouth and CU Law School, is not dumb. He knows well the power he unleashes when he publicly accuses people. Although my service in this trial is complete, I sat in on the hearing on Oct. 28 to plan for the third trial of Mr. Flint. Mr. Flint relied on the public defender for his second trial, as the first had already drained him financially. After all the complexities of scheduling the various authority figures, January 3, 2011 was selected for a third trial. Mr. Hurlbert then advised the court that he, during the previous week of trial, had seen Mr. Flint get out of a BMW SUV. Mr. Hurlbert felt that if Mr. Flint had an unliquidated asset, he should be denied access to a public defender. Judge Ruckriegle reminded Mr. Hurlbert that the issue of that car had been addressed before and, if necessary, Judge Ruckriegle could find that information. The pettiness of Mr. Hurlbert’s concern and the inability to remember that this issue had been addressed by the court highlights to me that Mr. Hurlbert’s focus on breaking the defendant preempts any concern for justice and common decency. We need a new district attorney.
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