We are at a crossroads. Voters will soon choose between competing visions for the future of public safety and prosecution in the 18th Judicial District, and you deserve to know where I stand. As a criminal prosecutor in Colorado for the last decade, and before that as a Marine Corps judge advocate and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney, the safety of our community will always come first. With public safety as my priority, I have plans to: (1) tackle rising violent crime, (2) improve transparency and accountability to create a more equitable criminal justice system, and (3) support rehabilitation as we deal with the opioid epidemic and its effect on crime.
Violent Crime Prevention
Crimes of violence are devastating to our community. So many families have lost someone they love due to an act of senseless violence. Survivors often face injuries that leave lifelong scars – both physical and psychological. No one deserves to live in an area where they are constantly in fear for their safety or the safety of their loved ones. But here’s the reality in Aurora, the largest city in our jurisdiction: homicides are up 68% this year; shootings up 35%. My experience working on the toughest cases in our jurisdiction has given me important insight into these crimes, and I will aggressively prosecute the violent criminals who commit them.
I also want to prevent violent crimes. Based on my experience investigating and trying multiple murder, drug, and gang-related cases, I believe the greatest impact we can make on the current increase in violent crime will come from combatting illegal gun trafficking. In my experience, when there is a drive by shooting, or a robbery that results in someone being shot, it is almost always the case that the gun used was obtained illegally and without any background checks. I want to target the network of gun traffickers that put dangerous weapons into the hands of dangerous people.
To do this, I plan to build an Interagency Violent Crime Task Force. We need to apply the lessons we’ve learned targeting major drug trafficking organizations to fight the illegal sale and transfer of firearms. That requires someone who can pull together all of the resources at our disposal to expose and shut down these gun trafficking enterprises. I am the candidate who knows how to do that. I’m the only candidate for DA that is endorsed by current and former sheriffs from all four counties in the jurisdiction, as well as police organizations across the district. As early as day one, I will be able to bring them together to tackle the gun trafficking problem we are facing, just as we’ve already done in the areas of auto-theft and drug trafficking.
Transparency, Accountability, and Equity
As District Attorney I will create the most transparent office in the state. The public needs access to what we do day-in and day-out – not just what shows up in the papers on high-profile cases. I will dramatically expand the data we make available to the public on the number and types of cases we file, with monthly data published to our website on an interactive dashboard where citizens can see the cases we work on and the outcomes of those cases. This will help the community understand how frequently and on what types of cases we are seeking treatment-oriented sentences versus prison sentences.
But leadership isn’t about just sharing more information; it’s about engaging in dialogue with those we serve. Sometimes that means uncomfortable conversations, challenging conventional wisdom, and speaking honestly about what we as prosecutors see on a daily basis. One of the earliest cornerstones of my campaign was a pledge to engage more with the community. As your elected DA, I will hold public meetings each quarter to share information about our office’s activities and listen to input from citizens, community leaders, and community organizations. I believe firmly that engagement shouldn’t happen only when the District Attorney’s office is in the news – it needs to happen on a regular basis so that citizens maintain access to the government that serves them.
I also vow to have an independent agency perform a review of the office’s filing, plea bargaining, and sentencing decisions to ensure that implicit bias and racial disparity do not exist in the 18th Judicial District. The more we share information about criminal justice, the more honest conversations we can have in furtherance of a more just and equitable system. And the best way for our office to improve is to carefully examine the data and see where changes need to be made.
Opportunities for Rehabilitation
Substance abuse and addiction issues are often a gateway into the criminal justice system. Before COVID-19, the opioid epidemic was front page news. Now it has taken a second seat to other pressing concerns, but tragically during these last 6 months of the pandemic, overdose deaths have skyrocketed. Battles with addiction destabilize our communities, and often defendants find themselves facing charges for other crimes because of their struggles with addiction, or even more tragically, because they use illegal drugs to cope with undiagnosed mental health challenges. As DA, I will focus on intervention and treatment with a goal to reunite families and expand access to treatment.
I helped found the Veterans’ Treatment Court in the 18th Judicial district to bring an aggressive treatment program to offenders who might otherwise be going to prison. That treatment court model now includes treatment courts for drug addiction, mental health issues, and DUIs, and has been extremely successful not only in saving the high financial and societal cost of prison, but also increasing defendants’ chances at real rehabilitation. These treatment courts focus on higher risk offenders whose crimes could otherwise lead them to a prison sentence, but with significant assistance from mental health professionals and our office’s engagement, we are able to fix the root cause of the crime and reduce recidivism well below the state’s average of 50%. As your elected DA, I plan to increase access to treatment courts, and to expand them into other areas where they may be helpful.
While treatment courts are meant to assist people who have committed more serious crimes because of underlying drug, mental health, or alcohol problems, an entirely separate category of offenses (usually misdemeanors) are oftentimes handled through the 18th Judicial District’s diversion programs. Currently the 18th Judicial District has juvenile and adult diversion programs. Typically, diversion programs are for first or second time, low level offenders, who if they complete certain requirements like paying restitution, community service, or restorative justice, can have their case dismissed. As the next DA, I plan to launch an entirely new program where defendants charged with first time misdemeanor drug possession or use can enter a 12-month treatment program supervised by the probation department. In exchange, these defendants will have the opportunity to get treatment and to walk away with no criminal conviction if they successfully complete a deferred judgment and sentence. This model incentivizes treatment and rehabilitation while also ensuring accountability.
As the only candidate who has managed prosecutors in the 18th Judicial District (I am currently running the Douglas, Lincoln and Elbert County offices and previously was in charge of the largest felony division in Arapahoe County), I am in a position to implement these changes starting on day one of being your elected District Attorney. I know how the office operates, who to engage to make real and impactful changes, and how to get things done.
I would be honored to have your vote.