Trial of ex-police chief still on track for October

Citing a lack of evidence the former Kremmling police chief has been unfairly targeted, a Grand County judge won’t derail the jury trial set for Jamie Lucas this fall.

Last month, Lucas’ attorney Jeffrey Eidsness asked Judge Nicholas Catanzarite to dismiss the criminal charges against his client or appoint a special prosecutor in a motion alleging that 14th Judicial District Attorney Matt Karzen was retaliating against Lucas because of statements Lucas made about the DA’s office.

Lucas was charged with multiple counts of official misconduct, official oppression and false reporting in January after he allegedly mishandled an animal abuse case last October. He was removed as police chief in April after months on paid leave. In May, Lucas pleaded not guilty, and a trial is set for Oct. 12-13.

Even before he was charged, Lucas had claimed the investigation into how he handled the animal abuse case was a result of comments he made critical of the DA’s Office. Karzen has maintained Lucas’ accusations are false. 

After reviewing the motion and DA’s response, Judge Catanzarite issued a written order denying Lucas’ request. Instead, the judge agreed with the DA, saying that Lucas didn’t offer any evidence and only “hypothesizes” a personal interest on the part of the district attorney.

Due to a lack of examples that the prosecution is unprecedented, Catanzarite wrote in the order that he couldn’t find any discriminatory prosecution had occurred and therefore wouldn’t dismiss the case.

“The defendant does not cite any legal authority requiring the DA to handle the case based on his suggestions,” Catanzarite wrote. “Nor does the defendant give any examples of similar cases that were handled differently.”

As far as Lucas’ request for a special prosecutor, Catanzarite didn’t find that argument compelling either.

Catanzarite noted that Lucas’ comments directed toward the DA’s office don’t create a personal interest on behalf of the DA, nor does Lucas’ stated intention to file a formal ethics complaint against the office. Lucas has not yet filed the complaint.

“The defendant’s criticism of the DA’s conduct in this case and in other cases are evidence of his own opinions,” the judge continued. “Under the case law, a hypothesis based on suspicions about the timeline of events is far from ‘actual evidence’ of ‘extreme’ special circumstances that would impair defendant’s right to a fair trial.”

With the written order issued, Catanzarite declined to hold an evidentiary hearing.

Lucas is scheduled to return to court on Sept. 21. His attorney did not respond to request for comment on Monday. Reached over the phone, Karzen said he had no additional comments about the judge’s ruling.

Timeline of Events

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.

June 26 – Karzen files response to Lucas’ motion asking the judge to deny it.

July 17 – Judge Catanzarite issues an order denying Lucas’ motion.

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