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DA’s office supports judge substitution in Brigid Irish case

DA Brett Barkey
Staff Photo |

The 14th Judicial District Attorney’s Office has filed a response to the Motion for Substitution of Judge in the Brigid Irish case.

Irish’s Public Defender Chris Hamsher filed the motion on Sept. 28 effectively asking Judge Hoak to recuse herself from the case. Following submittal of the motion the DA’s office was given 21 days to file a response to the motion.

The DA’s response was submitted to the Court on Oct. 19. The four-page document, which is part of the public record, is supportive of the motion filed by Irish’s Public Defender and calls for Judge Hoak to recuse herself, stating, “The People believe good cause has been shown in that the Court’s attitudes about the case were not fully apparent until the Court’s rejection of the plea agreement on July 31, 2015.”

Later the response states, “It (the Court) should take this action in an abundance of caution to protect itself from claims of bias and to insulate the record on appeal against claims” of “an appearance of interest or bias.”

In a subsection of the response titled, “Avoided the Appearance of Interest or Prejudice”, the DA’s motion states, “The court sentenced Matthew Holmes for stealing drugs from an EMS vehicle for his personal use and replaced them with saline … The Court sentenced Holmes to felony probation of four years and ninety days jail despite the fact that he physically endangered hundreds of lives.”

The response goes on to state, “Certainly the size and duration of Ms. Irish’s theft was significant, but no person was endangered. A reasonable person could question how Court could impose a probationary sentence in the Holmes case yet demand the possibility of a prison sentence in this case, especially in light of the eighteen months of county jail that can be ordered.”

In the Background section of the response the DA’s offices discusses the previously presented plea agreement, which Judge Hoak denied on July 31. The response states that part of the plea agreement presented to Judge Hoak in July was an agreement from Irish to plead guilty to Abuse of Public Records charges, “exposing her to eighteen months in the county jail at the discretion of the court.”

The response calls the sentencing between Holmes and Irish incongruous and states that the incongruity, “appears to be because of the following factors: a. This case has received significant public attention, and justified outrage, for the theft, as well as the apparent lack of supervision and safeguards on the part of the county government. b. The judicial officer presiding over this Court resides in Grand County. c. The same judicial officer stands for retention in the 14th Judicial District in 2016. Notably, Grand County voters declined to retain a county judge in 2014.”

After DA’s office filed their response to the Motion for Substitution the Irish’s Defense Counsel was given an additional seven days to reply to the DA’s response. No reply was entered by Hamsher and the Motion is now awaiting a decision from Judge Hoak. The decision to substitute a different Judge or not is Judge Hoak’s to make. Now that the DA’s response has been filed and the timeframe for a reply from the Defense has lapsed Judge Hoak could rule on the Motion at any time, meaning the motion is “ripe” in court terminology.

The next scheduled Court proceedings in the Irish case are set for Friday, Nov. 6, at 9:30 a.m. for an arraignment.

Irish is accused of misappropriating more than $600,000 in Grand County Building Department funds while working as an administrative assistant in that office. The funds Irish is accused of misappropriating were primarily checks submitted to the county for building permits. She first began working for the Building Department in 2001.


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