Former police chief Lucas asks court to nix charges or appoint special prosecutor
Claiming the district attorney is retaliating against him and attempting to chill his free speech, Former Kremmling Police Chief Jamie Lucas asked the Grand County Court on Monday to dismiss the charges against him, or else appoint a special prosecutor.
Lucas was charged with multiple counts of official misconduct, official oppression and false reporting in January after allegations that he mishandled an animal abuse case dating back to last October. In May, Lucas pleaded not guilty and a trial was set for Oct. 12-13.
Since before he was charged, Lucas has argued the investigation and resulting charges are retaliation for comments he made about the ethics of the 14th Judicial District Attorney’s Office. Now, those arguments are further detailed in Lucas’ request for the court to dismiss his case based on discriminatory prosecution or to appoint a special prosecutor.
Dec. 4 – Grand County Sheriff’s Office takes over the investigation into an alleged case of animal abuse involving three juveniles.
Dec. 13 – Fraser Winter Park Police Chief Glen Trainor confirms his department is investigating Kremmling Police Chief Jamie Lucas for potential misconduct.
Dec. 20 – The town of Kremmling places Lucas on paid administrative leave after receiving a letter from the 14th Judicial District Attorney’s Office that Lucas had been Brady listed.
Jan. 2 – The DA’s office reviewed the Fraser Winter Park Police Department’s investigation after it was completed in December.
Jan. 22 – In response to the allegations of misconduct, Lucas takes a polygraph and requests a special prosecutor. The DA refutes Lucas’ claims.
Jan. 31 – The DA’s office files 15 charges against Lucas after reviewing the concluded Fraser Winter Park Police Department investigation.
April 22 – Kremmling’s town board votes unanimously not to reappoint Lucas as police chief and directs the town manager to begin a job search for a new chief.
May 5 – Lucas pleads not guilty to the charges he faces and a trial is set for Oct. 12-13.
June 15 – Lucas’ attorney files a motion to dismiss the case or appoint a special prosecutor.
The DA’s office has maintained that Lucas’ accusations of retaliation and ethics violations are false and Lucas hasn’t yet filed a formal complaint against the office. Before the judge on Monday, Karzen blasted Lucas’ request as simply playing games.
“The law is pretty clear that Mr. Lucas cannot create a conflict or fabricate one out of thin air and then point to that as an excuse to hold an evidentiary or veracity hearing,” Karzen said in court. “The court will see in my response the case law here prevents Mr. Lucas from playing the games he’s attempting to play.”
However, the 11-page motion filed by Lucas’ attorney Jeffrey Eidsness outlines a contested history between Lucas and Karzen, which Eidsness argues led to discriminatory prosecution in an effort to silence Lucas.
Previously, Lucas took issue with the conclusion of a Colorado Bureau of Investigation analysis that looked into allegations of misconduct that a former Kremmling police officer accused Lucas of committing. The DA’s office reviewed the CBI investigation and determined there was insufficient evidence to prosecute any of the claims against Lucas, but the DA’s office was still critical of Lucas.
The motion cited Karzen’s decision to longer prosecute cases that involve Lucas as evidence of a personal attack against the former police chief.
Finally, the motion claims that Karzen was dismissive of ethics concerns Lucas brought up regarding the actions of the assistant district attorneys. Using those examples, Eidsness claims Karzen took extreme actions to prosecute Lucas.
Eidsness also contends that it’s unusual for law enforcement officers to be charged with jurisdictional errors, which serve as a basis for Lucas’ charges, since there are ways to correct them, like refiling the offense in the proper court.
To support this argument, Eidsness cites 5th Judicial District Attorney Bruce Brown, who was quoted in in the Grand Gazette saying that he would work in collaboration with law enforcement to gain prosecutorial control.
“By way of example, the comments made publicly about the issue by elected official Bruce Brown, the normal means by which jurisdictional concerns are normally remedied — either by contacting the filing officer, filing agency or municipal prosecutor,” the motion reads.
When reached for comment, Brown said he would not make further statements at this point.
Beyond the jurisdictional concern, Eidsness questions why Karzen didn’t reach out to the town of Kremmling for an internal affairs investigation instead of conducting a criminal investigation. The motion goes on to argue that the false reporting charges are “nonsensical” because the charge isn’t intended to be applied to statements about specific facts of a different crime.
“The charges brought in this case are unprecedented, unjustifiable in the law, and similarly situated peace officers are not subjected to criminal prosecution for similar conduct that is properly handled within the judicial process,” the motion reads.
Should the judge not be compelled to dismiss the case, Eidsness asks that a special prosecutor be appointed since Lucas asserts Karzen has a personal interest in the case that would result in an unfair trial.
According to the motion, Lucas also plans to file formal ethics complaints against the DA’s office.
Judge Nicholas Catanzarite allowed Karzen a week to respond to this motion, which Karzen said wouldn’t be a problem.
Catanzarite said he would likely not have an evidentiary hearing to make his decision, but rather would probably issue a written decision within two weeks of Karzen’s response. Lucas’ next court date is Sept. 21.
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