District Attorney’s Office plans to appeal chief judge’s decision
Steamboat Springs — The Routt County District Attorney’s Office has asked a district court judge to hold off on appointing a special prosecutor to prosecute a high-ranking Colorado official.
The District Attorney’s Office wants time to appeal Chief 14th Judicial District Judge Michael O’Hara’s decision to appoint a special prosecutor.
“The District Court’s ruling has damaging implications that reach far beyond the present case,” Routt County Chief Deputy District Attorney Matt Karzen wrote in a motion.
The case in question involves Colorado Department of Natural Resources executive director Mike King.
King was issued a citation in September 2013 for unlawfully entering private land in south Routt County to hunt, but in February 2014, the Routt County District Attorney’s Office filed a motion to dismiss the case 30 minutes before the trial was supposed to begin because it could not prove that King knowingly entered private property to hunt.
The District Attorney’s Office said there was some uncertainty as to whether the violation in question was a strict liability offense, which doesn’t require someone to be aware of the law they’re breaking to be held liable.
When the case was dismissed, the owner of the land that King was accused of trespassing on filed a lawsuit against District Attorney Brett Barkey.
Landowner Carl Luppens convinced O’Hara that the case should not have been dismissed.
“The court finds that the position of the Office of the District Attorney demonstrates that the decision to dismiss those charges was arbitrary and capricious,” O’Hara wrote in his Feb. 27 ruling. “The bases for that decision are not supported by Colorado law.”
O’Hara ordered a special prosecutor from the 9th Judicial District to prosecute the case.
In response, the District Attorney’s Office argued that O’Hara failed to rule on the issue before him, and he failed to make any factual findings.
“From the order, it appears that the court misunderstands the broad discretion that Colorado law affords to prosecutors to do what we believe is just, including dismissing charges,” Barkey said in an email last week.
The District Attorney’s Office believes O’Hara’s ruling is likely to be overturned because O’Hara “issued an order directly contrary to Colorado law that would strip from the office of the district attorney its authority to make thoughtful and responsible choices in its role as a minister of justice,” the motion states.
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