Colorado’s Death Penalty Teeters on Brink of Irrelevance

UPDATE: The Denver Post’s editorial board says “the death penalty in Colorado has effectively expired.”

There will never be crimes any worse than those committed by Holmes and Lewis. There may be crimes that are their equal in cruelty, but how often are they likely to occur? And why should those criminals be put to death if Holmes and Lewis were not?

Is the death penalty really only for people who commit crimes of similar magnitude who are neither mentally ill nor the product of childhood abuse? How often do such monsters come around?

The death penalty in Colorado has effectively expired. And it didn’t happen because of bleeding-heart lawmakers or activist judges. It happened because juries themselves wanted no part of it.


sir-mario-owens-nathan-dunlap-robert-rayThe Denver Post reports on the final decision yesterday by a jury in yet another Colorado death penalty case, this one in Denver related to the murders of five people in October of 2012 during a botched robbery attempt at Fero’s Bar and Grill:

When a Denver jury on Thursday spared a convicted mass killer the death penalty, a confused silence enveloped the courtroom. Dexter Lewis, who stabbed five people to death in 2012, will spend the rest of his life in prison…

Almost three years after Lewis joined in on a robbery that spiraled into a gruesome massacre, the case came to a blunt and dazed ending.

After deliberating for less than three hours Thursday, at least one member of the jury of 10 women and two men found that the details of Lewis’ life that suggested mercy — including chronic abuse and neglect — outweighed the heinous details of the crime that suggested death.

The decision yesterday to sentence convicted murderer Dexter Lewis to life in prison instead of the death sentence sought by prosecutors comes just weeks after a jury in Arapahoe County failed to agree on a death sentence for the killer in the 2012 Aurora theater massacre. Both of these high-profile cases represent circumstances that the prosecutors believed merited the ultimate punishment. But in both cases, at least one juror could not be convinced, and that ended the question of imposing a death sentence.

Lethal injection chamber.

Lethal injection chamber.

Mike Littwin at the Colorado Independent opines today that these outcomes further delegitimize capital punishment as a viable means of seeking justice, even as public polls show the idea of capital punishment still enjoys broad support in this state:

If Lewis and Holmes don’t get death, who does? It’s with that question — and with the near-certain answer — that the conversation almost certainly has to end…

Colorado has executed one person in the past 48 years. It currently has three people on death row. There’s no deterrence argument left, if there ever was one. For that matter, it’s hard to see where there’s a justice argument left.

It’s a punishment that is used so rarely — with decades-long waits on death row for the few assigned there — that any execution now seems to be little more than random, an accident of time or place. And a random punishment, as Supreme Court Justice Steve Breyer recently wrote, can’t, by definition, be just. He called it “the antithesis of justice.”

…John Hickenlooper made that decision himself in the case of Nathan Dunlap, granting him a “temporary reprieve” rather than letting an execution go forward. He didn’t say that Dunlap deserved any form of mercy. He wouldn’t even bring himself to use Dunlap’s name. Hickenlooper said his problem was with the system of capital punishment and whether it delivers the justice that it promises. He said you can’t have an imperfect system and also have justice.

The imperfections are there for all to see, in matters of race, gender and class. It’s no wonder that only seven states executed anyone last year. The botched execution in Oklahoma of Clayton Lockett led the Nebraska legislature, of all places, to end the death penalty there, even overriding a governor’s veto to make it happen.

There’s little question that the outcomes of these two high-profile death penalty cases will affect the debate over capital punishment in Colorado next year: in the legislature, and maybe at the polls as well. It’s worth remembering that at the same time Gov. John Hickenlooper was contemplating a reprieve for the “Chuck E. Cheese killer,” which he granted in May of 2013, his office helped scuttle legislation to repeal the death penalty in Colorado. There were a number of factors that went into Hickenlooper’s tapping the brakes on repeal of the death penalty in 2013, not least the already very ambitious slate of bills that had passed that year–including the hotly controversial gun safety bills that would later provoke recalls against Democrats state senators.

Bottom line: a poll in late July, just before the verdict in the Aurora theater trial, showed that over 60% of Coloradans supported the death penalty in that case. But today, with the Aurora shooter headed to prison for life and now the killer in the gruesome Fero’s Bar massacre also spared the death penalty, the question becomes whether the death penalty still works at all: as a punishment, a deterrent, or even a workable means of obtaining satisfaction for victims. At least one Aurora victim’s relative has been vocal about the wasted effort, expense, and emotional trauma of seeking the death penalty, only for the jury to impose a sentence that defense attorneys had offered over a year before.

At the very least, you have to concede that Hickenlooper’s postponement of the one execution he would have been responsible for looks very different today after these other arguably more vicious killers’ lives have been spared. And as one of the last “civilized” places on earth that still judicially kills people, these events provide context for a debate that may really be, in the long arc of history, in its final stages.

What’s Next for George Brauchler?

Arapahoe County DA George Brauchler.

Arapahoe County DA George Brauchler.

The Aurora Theater Shooting trial finally came to a close on Wednesday when Judge Carlos Samour Jr. sentenced convicted killer James Holmes to 12 consecutive life sentences, and another 3,318 years in prison for good measure. Following the sentencing, Samour put an exclamation point on the trial when he said, “Get the defendant out of my courtroom, please.”

Privately, at least, life should essentially return to normal for Judge Samour and the countless others who have invested much of the last few years on this case. But for Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler, who is being courted by Republicans to run for U.S. Senate in 2016, he may just be exchanging one spotlight for another.

In an interview with the Colorado Independent, Brauchler acknowledged that he feels the pressure to make a decision on his political future by Labor Day – less than two weeks away. Now that the sentencing is complete, it’s a good time to look at the political ramifications of the Aurora Theater Shooting Trial for Brauchler — and by extension, Colorado Republicans in general.

We decided to do this Rickey Henderson-style by having a Q&A conversation with ourselves, so let’s get to it after the jump… (more…)

Denver Police asked to Boycott anti-Muslim “Training” in Centennial

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Denver Police are being asked not to attend an anti-Muslim “Training” session tonight, put on by known bigot and Islamophobe John Guandolo.

RMGO’s flyer for the Centennial Gun Club event August 13-15

CAIR, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, put out this press release today:

In an email sent today to a number of Denver-area police departments, CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper wrote:

“CAIR formally requests that your department investigate whether or not any officers will take Mr. Guandolo’s training and whether you believe the biased and agenda-driven presentations he offers will be of any benefit to your officers or to the communities they serve.”

Earlier this year, CAIR welcomed the withdrawal of an FBI representative from an event in Texas that was initially sponsored by the anti-Muslim hate group ACT! for America and featured Guandolo.

Rocky Mountain Gun Owners is sponsoring these “training sessions” at the Centennial Gun Club tonight, August 13, 14, and 15. I wrote to Attorney General Cynthia Coffman July 24, asking her to prohibit law enforcement from attending training to learn how to racially profile people, when I published this diary about Guandolo’s event. I never received a reply. Today, I called Denver Police Public Information to find out their response to the CAIR email on indoctrination of their officers. Again, no response. 

Guandolo makes a living spreading hate and fear of Muslims.

Southern Poverty Law Center considers Guandolo to be a spokesperson for hate groups.  Guandolo, kicked out of the FBI for having a sexual affair with a witness, claims that “Muslims do not have First Amendment rights to anything.” Fellow bigot Frank Gaffney of the Center for Security Policy is worried about Somali nationals packing meat in Greeley; At the Western Conservative Summit in Denver, Gaffney said:

I don’t know about you, but it kind of creeps me out that they are getting jobs in the food supply of the United States.

– Southern Poverty Law Center, Disgraced Former FBI Agent….

Four other states – Kansas, Texas, Arizona, and Virginia –  have prohibited these nuts from spreading their views, at least to police officers and public officials on the public’s payroll. Guandolo’s organization certainly is a “hate group”, and should not be spreading anti-Muslim bigotry and racial / religious profiling in Colorado.

The Nuge Joins Forces With Ken Buck

Ted Nugent.

Ted Nugent.

Back in April, we took note of a photo Tweeted by Rep. Ken Buck from his Washington, D.C. office, proudly holding an AR-15 assault rifle with Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina. This photo struck us as a bit curious, since Washington, D.C. has very strict gun laws that outlaw Buck’s AR-15 rifle and the 30-round magazine attached to it.

After a morning of interesting back and forth between inquiring reporters and the D.C. Attorney General’s office, who at first insisted the weapon was illegal and that they were “looking into” the matter, the U.S. Capitol Police stated they had allowed Buck to display the weapon in his office under “regulations” that permit members of Congress and their staff to possess unloaded guns on Capitol grounds. The manner of how that regulation comports with local D.C. law was left unresolved, but Rep. Buck still has his AR-15 on display in the Cannon Office Building by all accounts.

Curiously, though, today we received this fundraising email blast on Rep. Buck’s behalf from aging rock star and famous “gun guy” Ted Nugent, which seems to imply a very different outcome to last April’s little brouhaha:

If we don’t stand our ground, Barack Obama (or worse, President Hillary Clinton) will take away our guns that we rely on to defend our homes, families, and country.

That’s why I need you to hear something completely insane…

You know they tried to toss a US Congressman in jail for having his legally owned AR-15 in his office?

That’s right – my friend Congressman Ken Buck was under investigation by the Washington, DC, Metro Police because the city’s Left-wing gun regulations are so restrictive, most people can’t even legally exercise their God-given Constitutional right to bear arms (even in a private place like your office)!

He put a picture online of Congressman Trey Gowdy and himself admiring his awesome American flag wrapped AR-15 and some vindictive liberal gun-hater sent it to the police. The rest is history…

Rep. Ken Buck (right), with his gun.

Rep. Ken Buck (right), with his gun.

So, if The Nuge means this blog when he says “some vindictive liberal gun-hater,” because we were the ones who posted the photo of Buck with his AR-15 that led to news inquiries, we guess that’s one thing. But in terms of the rest of the story “being history,” well, our readers know that Ken Buck didn’t face any charges or sanctions for his assault rifle on Capitol grounds–in fact, it’s still there.

But that version of the story, otherwise known as the true story, wouldn’t raise nearly as much money.

That’s why I’m helping Congressman Ken Buck. He’s a guy we can trust who will fight for the values we share – especially when it comes to the 2nd Amendment. Hell, they tried to get him thrown into jail for exercising his Second Amendment rights!

That’s my kind of guy. Bold, brave, and packing heat in his office to scare off liberals.

As our longtime readers know, this isn’t the first time that The Nuge has weighed in on a Colorado political matter. Ted Nugent endorsed Tom Tancredo for governor in 2014, which because a lively sidenote in that race after Nugent denounced President Barack Obama in a radio interview as a “communist-raised, communist-educated, communist-nurtured subhuman mongrel.” Nugent also said of our state following the passage of 2013’s gun safety bills, “if ever there was a poster child for apathy, disconnect, laziness, and abandonment of We the People, and moral dereliction, it is Colorado.”

We can assume from the former statement that Nugent, like Buck, “loses his appetite” in the presence of America’s first black president. But we would kind of like to know if Buck agrees with Nugent in his assessment of the state Buck represents in Congress.

Needless to say, we hope not.

Yes, George Brauchler Is Damaged Goods Now

UPDATE: Via Jason Salzman, Arapahoe County DA George Brauchler goes off the rails today on talk radio, blaming pretty much everybody but himself for losing the death penalty case. Safe to say this was not his finest performance–a telling look at what happens when the shine comes off the “golden boy.”


Arapahoe County DA George Brauchler.

Arapahoe County DA George Brauchler.

As word spread on Friday that the jury in the Aurora theater shooting trial would not sentence the shooter to death, we noted via Twitter that this result is a major defeat for Arapahoe County DA George Brauchler. Brauchler’s higher political ambitions are very well known, after he was mentioned as a potential GOP challenger to Gov. John Hickenlooper last year–and as Republicans have faced big problems finding a candidate to run next year against incumbent Sen. Michael Bennet, Brauchler’s name has been invoked in that race as well.

It’s not that we were trying to be crass about this story. We’re a political blog, and politics is the angle we are expected to take on the events of the day.

As our friend Lynn Bartels suggests above, the verdict in the Aurora shooting case could have gone either way–and might have had very different political implications had the jury chosen to recommend a death sentence. But the fact is that Brauchler did pursue the death penalty despite an offer from the defense of an uncontested sentence of life in prison with no possibility of release–and that unsuccessful pursuit of death for the Aurora theater shooter extended the pain and expense of the process by over a year and millions of dollars.

Friday evening, 9NEWS devoted a news story entirely to the Tweets of Jordan Ghawi, the brother of Aurora shooting victim Jessica Ghawi, in which Jordan Ghawi condemned Brauchler’s “political ambition trumping reason.” After the verdict, Ghawi thanked jurors for “letting reason and not emotion guide you in your decision.” Naturally, opinions vary markedly among survivors and family of Aurora shooting victims as to whether or not the killer should have been sentenced to death. But Ghawi’s powerful statements against more killing in response to the death of his sister, and calling out of the “political ambition” that drove the decision to seek the death penalty, at least partly deprive Brauchler of the ability to claim the moral high ground now that the killer has been spared.

Indeed, the only real story of misconduct related to the Aurora shooting trial involves Brauchler himself. During the trial, Brauchler was harshly criticized by Judge Carlos Samour for Tweeting about the trial from the courtroom. Brauchler’s ill-advised Tweets violated the judge’s order against social media from the courtroom, led directly to the dismissal of three jurors from the trial, and was later the subject of a complaint filed with the Colorado Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel. Republican defenders of Brauchler tried hard to downplay this incident, but after jurors were dismissed over it, there was little for Brauchler to do but take his lumps.

Politically, that misstep might have been forgotten basking in the “glory” of a death sentence, but Brauchler did not win a death sentence. The additional months and millions of dollars spent “needlessly” at trial, as Jordan Ghawi put it, were all for naught. In the end, it doesn’t really matter if you supported the death penalty in this case or opposed it. Today the story is only that the Aurora shooter will not be executed, and that Brauchler had some moments of bad publicity on the way to losing the death penalty case.

No matter how much you may like Brauchler, feel like he did the “best he could,” or (the one that probably matters most) need him to shore up a dwindling Republican bench in Colorado, this outcome does not set Brauchler up to run for higher office.

And we all know it.

BREAKING: Aurora Shooter Avoids Death Penalty


The woman, known as juror 17, did not want to give her name. She says there was one firm holdout on the jury who did not want to sentence the shooter to death. Juror 17 says two others were on the fence.

“That person was solidly in that position we learned,” she said. “They weren’t sure but they probably would have discussed it further had the other juror not been solidly in favor of the life sentence.”

She said the holdout juror was a woman, but did not give the number of the juror. She believes mental illness may have been an issue.

Aurora Sentinel:

District Attorney George Brauchler was joined by Aurora Police Chief Nick Metz and Aurora Fire Chief Mike Garcia, flanked by family members of the shooting victims, outside the courthouse Friday evening as he expressed his disappointment in the verdict.

“While I am disappointed with the outcome, I am not disappointed with the system,” he said.

As for the potential plea deal the defense offered shortly after he took office in early 2013, Brauchler said he was “open minded” to the idea. But, he said he told defense lawyers that if he was going to consider a deal, he would need to see Holmes’ medical records, the notebook he mailed to his therapist, and have a doctor of his choice examine Holmes.

The defense refused, he said.


Arapahoe County DA George Brauchler.

Arapahoe County DA George Brauchler.

Huge and unexpected news out of Arapahoe County this evening, Denver Post:

James Holmes will spend the rest of his life in a prison cell instead of dying in an execution chamber, jurors in the Aurora movie theater shooting trial decided Friday.

After deliberating for less than seven hours over two days, the jury of nine women and three men failed to unanimously agree that death is the appropriate punishment. The disagreement means Judge Carlos Samour Jr. will sentence Holmes to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the murders of 12 people at the Century Aurora 16 theater three years ago.

We’ll update with statements and coverage as they come in–but clearly a major defeat for Arapahoe County DA George Brauchler, who pushed for the death penalty in this case with higher political aspirations in mind and appears to have lost big. Here’s a Tweet from Jordan Ghawi, brother of Aurora shooting victim Jessica Ghawi from before the verdict was announced:

Stay tuned for more information. This decision will have a lasting impact on Colorado politics.

Doug Bruce Sues Top Defense Attorney, Epic Hilarity Ensues

Doug Bruce.

Doug Bruce.

As the Colorado Springs Gazette’s Megan Schrader reports, convicted felon tax evader and author of the 1992 Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights Douglas Bruce is going back to court–this time to sue his former defense attorney, the renowned David Lane of Denver, for not moving Bruce’s appeal of his convictions fast enough through the courts:

Douglas Bruce has filed a civil suit against his former attorney David Lane seeking $165,000 in damages for misconduct in handling Bruce’s appeal of his 2012 felony convictions.

Bruce, a Colorado Springs anti-tax crusader, hired Lane in 2012 to represent him at the sentencing of a tax evasion trial with a $75,000 retainer to handle the appeal of three guilty convictions. Bruce said Lane delayed filing the opening brief of his appeal for almost two years, then refused to refund his money when Bruce lost patience and hired a different attorney. The case was filed in Denver District Court in early July…

Lane’s response to Bruce could be one of the greatest smackdowns of Colorado’s least-ingratiating anti-tax activists ever recorded.

“That’s not a particularly long time,” Lane said of the delay for the opening brief. “We met every single deadline imposed upon us by the Colorado Court of Appeals. The fact that the court doesn’t move as fast as Douglas Bruce wants it to is probably because there are not enough dollars to adequately staff the Colorado Court of Appeals due to the TABOR Amendment.” [Pols emphasis]

Wham! But seriously, Lane continues,

“It was very difficult dealing with Douglas Bruce because I believe him to have a mental illness,” Lane said.

That’s not a sentiment we expect anyone with an interest in defending Bruce’s “gift” to our state, TABOR, will want to see repeated. But the fact is, Bruce’s personal conduct, from his bizarre violent outbursts to his felony conviction for tax evasion, have done almost as much to discredit TABOR as the deleterious effects of the law itself. TABOR’s labyrinthine provisions, not just requiring votes on tax increases but tightly regulating every aspect of the process to ensure such proposals are almost impossible to pass, make a great deal more sense in the context of their authorship by a tax cheat. TABOR is supported by conservatives not because it requires citizen participation in the decision, but because it skews the process to make a no vote the most likely outcome.

At one time, we would have described TABOR as the product of an evil genius. But seeing what has become of Douglas “Mr. TABOR” Bruce in recent years, “genius” is not a word we would use to describe either Bruce or his handiwork.

Enough: Stop Terrorizing Colorado, Cory Gardner

UPDATE: The Fort Collins Coloradoan’s Jason Pohl reports some additional details today that both shed some light on the story and raise more questions–and either way, don’t make Cory Gardner’s hair-raising speculation via press release any more justifiable:

A woman called Fort Collins Police Services on May 24 to report “two unknown Middle Eastern males” had approached her in a parking lot “inquiring about her husband, who was in the military,” Sgt. Dean Cunningham told the Coloradoan…

Fort Collins police then forwarded the information to the FBI “for informational purposes only,” Cunningham said. On July 2, the department received a bulletin from the FBI that specifically referenced the May incident.

…Denver’s CBS4 first published the report in a Tuesday broadcast, but the station did not address how it acquired the document, how it had been vetted or how seriously law enforcement agencies were treating the alert. [Pols emphasis]

As you can read below, the Denver Division of the FBI, to whom the bulletin is attributed, told the Greeley Tribune they didn’t release any such alert at all–so we’re not exactly sure how to reconcile these two reports. But even if it’s authentic, the alleged FBI alert was over a month old when first reported by CBS4 this week–and the FBI’s statement yesterday that they have found no credible threat to military members or their families in Colorado and Wyoming is unequivocal.

It remains a fact that Sen. Cory Gardner had any number of official channels to turn to to verify the details of the story before issuing a statement, and instead relied on this unconfirmed CBS4 news report. There’s every reason to believe that the FBI would have debunked or at least allayed his concerns if he had asked, as they did for reporters seeking to verify the story yesterday. But he didn’t ask.

Because scaring first and asking questions later is better for Gardner politically.


Sen. Cory Gardner (R).

Sen. Cory Gardner (R).

The story late Tuesday night from CBS4 Denver was alarming to say the least:

An alert has been issued by the FBI to all law enforcement agencies in Colorado and Wyoming involving U.S. military families and concerns about who may be watching them.

The alert says Middle Eastern men are approaching families of U.S. military members at their homes in Colorado and Wyoming. It mentions Greeley, Colorado, and Cheyenne, Wyoming, as the specific areas.

In one case last May the wife of a military member was approached in front of her home by two Middle Eastern males. The men stated that she was the wife of a U.S. interrogator. When she denied their claims the men laughed. The two men left the area in a dark-colored, four-door sedan with two other Middle Eastern males in the vehicle.

The next morning, Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner expressed great concern in a press statement, seemingly validating that this CBS4 news report was accurate:

“I am alarmed by reports out of Denver that military members’ families have been harassed outside their homes and may be under surveillance,” Gardner said. “This news comes less than two weeks after FBI Director James Comey, speaking in Denver, warned of the heightened threat from the Islamic State that Colorado specifically faces. The FBI has now alerted all Colorado law enforcement agencies, and my office is in contact with the appropriate officials. I will continue to closely monitor the situation, and I encourage Coloradans to report suspicious behavior to the FBI.”

In his statement, Sen. Gardner claims that in addition to seeing the news report on CBS4, he was “in contact with the appropriate officials.” But this morning, it looks as though if Gardner actually had been in contact with the FBI, they might have had very different information for him. As the Greeley Tribune now reports:

The Denver office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation announced it has found no credible threats to military personnel or their family members in Colorado or Wyoming, according to a statement released late Thursday afternoon…

The statement was issued in response to reports Wednesday by a variety of Colorado news outlets that military families in Greeley and Cheyenne, Wyo., had been harassed or intimidated by men of Middle Eastern descent. Those reports were based off of an activity alert that was supposedly first released to law enforcement in May and then again on July 2.

The spokesmen for Weld County’s two largest law enforcement agencies said Wednesday they had not received the alert and were unaware of any cases of harassment against military members or their families. [Pols emphasis]

Another Greeley Tribune report from late Wednesday suggests the “FBI alert” in question may have been a fake:

Special Agent Amy Sanders, spokeswoman for the FBI Denver Bureau, said the office did not release any such alert [Pols emphasis] and that it had not confirmed the document’s authenticity as of Wednesday afternoon.

So what happened here? The answer may be pretty straightforward.

Back in April, we took note of social media posts from Rep. Ken Buck declaratively stating that there are training camps operated by the self-proclaimed Islamic State just over the Mexican border from El Paso, Texas. Those reports were proven false as quickly as mainstream media outlets were able to make the relevant phone calls, but Buck’s enthusiastic spreading of these totally unconfirmed reports lent them credibility they did not deserve. As a federal lawmaker who can easily obtain confirmation via official channels to verify or disprove such reports, Buck has a higher obligation to make sure what he says is accurate.

On the campaign trail last year, now-Sen. Cory Gardner repeatedly invoked dubious unconfirmed news reports to play up his “concern” for the fears of voters on a variety of subjects. The best example was Gardner’s shameless co-opting of unfounded fears about the Ebola virus outbreak in west Africa to attack his opponent. Politifact later declared Ebola fearmongering during the 2014 campaign to be the “Lie of the Year,” but at the time Gardner exploited the “Ebola issue” to positive effect in his campaign.

Inciting panic over what turns out to be a baseless–and possibly bogus–news report is an objectionable thing for an AM radio talk show host to do. For a sitting U.S. Senator, it’s really quite unacceptable.

And in Cory Gardner, now we have the makings of a pattern.

Strong Democratic Challenge Sets Up In Key State Senate Race

Las Animas County Sheriff Jim Casias (D).

Las Animas County Sheriff Jim Casias (D).

The Denver Post’s John Frank reports–after a heartbreaking narrow loss in 2012, Democrats are once again hopeful for a shot at picking up GOP Sen. Larry Crowder’s SD-35 seat with a strong new challenger–Las Animas County Sheriff Jim Casias:

The Democratic sheriff is a top recruit in the party’s plans to regain power in the Senate, where Republicans took a one-seat majority in the 2014 elections and served as a blockade for numerous bills backed by the Democratic House and Gov. John Hickenlooper.

Casias, 67, is one of the 55 sheriffs who filed suit against Hickenlooper in 2013 to fight tougher gun control laws, among those dubbed “heroes” by a conservative website. He also served as president of the County Sheriffs of Colorado Association in 2014…

To further distance himself from Denver, Casias is likely to make his challenge of the gun laws a prominent point in his campaign. He supports a repeal of the large ammunition magazine restrictions but supports background checks, Short said. [Pols emphasis]

In 2012, Larry Crowder unexpectedly defeated Democrat Crestina Martinez for this seat, which became highly competitive following legislative reapportionment the previous year. Martinez’s defeat led to a long period of introspection for Democrats in southern Colorado, a process that continues to this day as former strongholds like Pueblo adapt to changing politics in Denver–and Denver Democrats re-evaluate their message to better appeal to their base in other parts of the state.

Casias arguably represents the product of that new strategy–a well-known candidate with deep ties to the community who also has a demonstrable independent streak. Like Sen. Kerry Donovan on the Western Slope, Casias has a nuanced position on the 2013 gun laws that will appeal to voters who dislike them–in particular the much-maligned magazine limit law–while at the same time defending the universal gun background checks that were always the highest priority.

As for Crowder, his four years in the Senate have produced a number of liabilities that a strong opponent can exploit, including voting against rural broadband, affordable housing, and senior services–and above all voting to mess with retirement benefits for the significant number of PERA retirees in this district.

All of which adds up to a potent challenge from Democrats, in a competitive race key to retaking the Colorado Senate in 2016.

10,000 Rounds Ain’t Enough, Says RMGO’s Dudley Brown

Dudley Brown of RMGO.

Dudley Brown of RMGO.

A shrilly-worded action alert from the hard right pro-gun group Rocky Mountain Gun Owners warns of yet another sneaky plot by ex-New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his crafty cabal of leftist gun-grabbers to cheat honest law-abiding Americans out of their sacred right to spray unlimited quantities of lead at whatever they like:

It’s no secret that billionaire playboy Michael Bloomberg is anti-gun.

But his latest attempt to restrict your gun rights is coming from somewhere you’d never expect.

Bloomberg and his crony Colorado mayors have turned to government bureaucrats to push their gun-grabbing agenda.

That’s why I need your help!

RMGO has obtained documents showing the Denver Fire Department is planning to ban the storage of more than 10,000 rounds of ammunition in any residential occupancy. [Pols emphasis]

I know it sounds outrageous, but the gun-grabbers will stop at nothing to limit your ability to protect yourself and your family…

ammo_CutAwayNow first of all, we don’t know anything about this proposal one way or the other–we’ve seen no news reports about it, and there’s nothing we can find even in media outlets in other cities discussing the possibility of limiting storage of ammunition in a residential structure to 10,000 rounds.

But just for argument’s sake, let’s ask the question: how many rounds of ammunition does someone need to defend themselves? A study of National Rifle Association reports on self-defense situations says most defenders fire only two shots, and almost never have to (or are usually unable to) reload. We don’t want to be presumptuous about what would obviously be a stressful situation, but that’s about 9,998 shots fewer than Brown seems to think you’ll need to “protect yourself and your family.”

Setting that argument aside for a moment, there’s just no question that storing huge amounts of live ammunition in a residential building is kind of a sketchy practice. We get that there are gun-lovers who for whatever reason don’t think so, but we guarantee that their non gun-loving neighbors would be uncomfortable to know that enough ammunition to blow up/burn down a building was being stored next door. A building, or maybe the whole block?

Seriously, what other types of high explosives are you allowed to stockpile in your home?

On second thought, maybe some kind of reasonable limit, say 10,000 rounds or so, is okay after all–especially in residences in an urban environment like Denver. We’re thinking if you put that to a vote in Denver, it would pass handily. And if you don’t like it, maybe find a house in the country to convert into your own private ammo dump?

Again, this could simply be a fundraising scare tactic to keep RMGO’s war chest filled. But if it’s not…well, that’s fine too.

Aurora Theater Shooting Trial Moves to Phase 3

From the Aurora Sentinel:

After just a few hours of deliberation, jurors in the Aurora theater shooting trial unanimously decided that the trial of James Holmes will proceed to a third and final sentencing phase — where an ultimate decision on the death penalty will be made.

The jury’s quick deliberation and verdict found they did not deem the defense’s mitigation evidence to outweigh the four aggravating factors proven during the first phase of sentencing. Jurors deliberated for about an hour last week and 90 minutes this morning before reaching their verdict…

…The court now prepares to enter the third phase of sentencing, during which prosecutors are expected to call several of the victims’ relatives to testify.

Aurora Victim’s Parents Face Bankruptcy After Suing Online Ammo Dealers, Vow To Change Colorado Law

Aurora shooting victim Jessica Ghawi.

Aurora shooting victim Jessica Ghawi.

Back in May, we took note of a particularly troubling development in the aftermath of the 2012 mass shootings at the Century Theater in Aurora. The parents of Jessica Ghawi, one of the theatergoers killed when James Holmes opened fire in a packed movie theater on July 20, 2012, are facing dire financial straits after their lawsuit against online ammunition and body armor dealers who sold Holmes items used in the Aurora shooting was dismissed.

Under a Colorado law passed as a Republican “backlash” against stricter gun control measures following the 1999 Columbine High School massacre in Littleton, House Bill 00-1208, requires the immediate dismissal of any lawsuit brought against firearm or ammunition dealers, and further requires (using the term shall as opposed to may) that the judge order the plaintiffs in that lawsuit to pay the gun dealer’s legal fees. The problem in this case is that the suit filed by Lonnie and Sandy Phillips was not frivolous, investigating legitimate questions of liability arising from the online sale of ammunition and other dangerous products. Critically, the suit also sought no monetary damages–just a change in business practices by online gun and ammunition dealers.

Following another shooting incident at a theater in Louisiana last week, the Phillipses appeared on MSNBC’s News Nation with Tamron Hall, and disclosed that they now face bankruptcy over the $200,000 judgment against them. For all the publicity surrounding the Aurora shooting and trial underway now, the plight of the Phillips family has received very little press attention, and Hall expressed shock at learning the details of their case:

The main argument from supporters of the gun dealers seeking money from the Phillips family is that they were given legal assistance by the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence. They assert that the Brady Center should pay the gun dealers, since obviously it would not be very good press for said gun dealers to start seizing assets of the parents of someone their products were involved in killing. At the end of the segment, Sandy Phillips addresses this question with Tamron Hall directly, asking “would you be willing to pay one penny to the people who helped murder your daughter?”

Because further appeals of the judgment dismissing their lawsuit would only expose them to further liability, the Phillipses say they are dropping their appeal to seek a legislative remedy. Repealing Colorado House Bill 00-1208, or at least modifying its punitive “shall award” language to allow for the possibility of a legitimate case against gun dealers at some point in the future, could perhaps be called a happy ending.

With the obvious caveat that there are no happy endings to this tragic story.

Bigots, Birchers, and Islamophobes in Colorado Mainstream Now

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Groups promoting hatred and fear of Muslims, gays, immigrants, unionized workers, and people of color are openly meeting in Colorado. These meetings are being promoted by mainstream Republican activists, and are aimed at influencing policy by informing local law enforcement and legislators of the  “threats” these groups pose. The John Birch Society had an Executive Dinner in Denver July 24.  RMGO is promoting an anti-Muslim training session for law enforcement, community and the public Aug. 13-15.

John Birch Society- the Founding Bigots

The John Birch Society met July 24, at the Doubletree Hilton Hotel in North Denver.  Many mainstream GOP activists planned to attend, according to their Facebook pages. The John Birch Society (JBS) has a long history of racism and religious bigotry in the United States, and was where the Koch Brothers learned how to prey upon the fears of the ignorant.

In the JBS world view, communists are everywhere.

The JBS had its origins in the McCarthy era, as an anti-Communist group.  “Birchers” preached that all Civil Rights Movement leaders and actions were Communist-inspired. My father, an editorial writer for the Post, used to rail about the “Goddamn Birchers” who would oppose every piece of civil rights or anti-poverty legislation in Denver, and tried to suppress his editorials in the 1960s.

Although JBS leadership now wears three-piece suits, and meets at $50 a plate fundraising dinners in nice hotel ballrooms, their messaging has changed very little: “Those people” (leftists, feminists, unionists, environmentalists, gays, Muslims, the UN, Democrats, people of color promoting Obama’s “race war”) are conspiring to take away your American way of life,  and they must be stopped, preferably with a hefty donation to the JBS. 

The JBS contributes heavily to “Right to Work” and other ALEC- generated legislation.  Colorado legislators are rated  on the JBS “Freedom Index”. Rated at 70% or higher: Mike Coffman, Doug Lamborn, Scott Tipton,  Cory Gardner, and Ken Buck . It will be interesting to see which of these Republican politicians attended the JBS dinner.

 John Guandalo: RMGO sponsored workshops August 13-15 on “Understanding the Threat” of the Global Islamic Movement


Army To Recruiting Station Vigilantes: Go Home

AKA a security threat too.

AKA a security threat too.

Happy to relay a public service announcement from U.S. Army Gen. Ray Odierno to all the “good citizens” brandishing firearms outside local military recruiting centers in the wake of the Chattanooga shootings–as the Colorado Springs Gazette’s Tom Roeder reported yesterday from Odierno’s press availability in Colorado Springs:

“I’m concerned we’re really on the razor’s edge at 450,000 [total troops],” the general said before noting that his biggest fear is sending untrained troops to a future war because the Army lacked strength and readiness.

The smaller Army isn’t the only thing that Odierno expressed fear over.

The general said he’s also worried about armed bands of civilians who have taken up patrolling outside military recruiting stations in the wake of shootings in Tennessee last week that left five troops dead.

Odierno said he thinks the patrolling civilians, including a band that’s on watch outside a station near Academy Boulevard and Vickers Drive, are well intentioned, but could be doing more harm than good.

“I worry it creates a dangerous situation,” Odierno said, noting if an incident happened, confusion could lead to civilian deaths.

Army newspaper Stars and Stripes was a little more blunt:

The Army has warned its recruiters to treat the gun-toting civilians gathering at centers across the country in the wake of the Chattanooga, Tenn., shooting as a security threat.

Soldiers should avoid anyone standing outside the recruiting centers attempting to offer protection and report them to local law enforcement and the command if they feel threatened, according to a U.S. Army Recruiting Command policy letter issued Monday…

“I’m sure the citizens mean well, but we cannot assume this in every case [Pols emphasis] and we do not want to advocate this behavior,” according to the Army Command Operations Center-Security Division letter, which was authenticated by the service.

It may come as a shock to that vocal percentage of Americans who believe more guns are the solution to every problem, but guns around military installations–especially guns not under the strict control of military commanders–is not a solution to, you know, anything. In fact, it’s just another security problem for people who don’t need more security problems.

So go play some paintball or something, big boys.

Woods Lets No Bogus FOX News Report Go To Waste

Yesterday, in the immediate aftermath of the tragic attacks on a military recruiting station and a separate reserve post near Chattanooga, Tennessee, Colorado Sen. Laura Waters Woods of Arvada swung into action on Facebook:


The biggest problem with this claim, says Media Matters for America, is that it isn’t true:

Four Marines were killed when a shooter fired on two military sites in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Fox News reported that the attacks may be connected to ISIS because an ISIS supporter purportedly discussed the shooting on Twitter before it happened. Fox host Sean Hannity repeated the false claim on his radio show.

In fact, the tweet Fox News referenced was posted well after the shooting had already occurred. Mashable editor Brian Ries first pointed out the discrepancy.

On Your World, Fox’s chief intelligence correspondent Catherine Herridge reported, “the last investigative thread I would mention at this point is that we’re taking a hard look at a Twitter account — an ISIS-linked Twitter account — that seemed to have foreknowledge of the shooting in Chattanooga. The tweet went out at 10:34 with the hashtag Chattanooga referring to American dogs and a likely shooting. This of course was about 15 minutes before the shooting took place.”

A few hours later:

At the end of the Factor, Special Report anchor Bret Baier clarified the timing of the tweet, saying that “all indications now are that it came out after the attack.” When O’Reilly asked if that meant the ISIS tweet story was “a bogus situation,” Baier replied, “yeah.” [Pols emphasis]

So much for that! Of course, the investigation into the Chattanooga shootings is in no way complete, and we would also be wrong to speculate about the shooter’s motives and affiliations. It’s true Sen. Waters Woods will probably need look no further than the shooters Arabic name, but that’s just not the proof positive a Tweet from before the shootings would be. Better to wait for investigators to do their jobs.

As for allowing military members to be armed “ALWAYS EVERYWHERE” (emphasis hers)? Excepting authorized forces on prescribed law enforcement duties, there are a lot of good reasons to not do that. Has Waters Woods run that suggestion by her excitable “liberty movement” friends tracking the Jade Helm 2015 military training exercise? Something tells us they might not like the way that sounds.

Bottom line: defund Planned Parenthood! Now back to your regularly scheduled program.