DA drops case against CSP Trooper in Kemp death

CSP Trooper Gene Lawyer after the reading of the verdict at the Mesa County Justice Center.

Mesa County District Attorney Pete Hautzinger today dismissed two leftover charges in the case of Colorado State Patrol Trooper Ivan “Gene” Lawyer, telling a judge he’s “satisfied nothing could have been done differently” from last month’s trial which ended with four acquittal verdicts and two hung charges.

Lawyer’s trial jury on April 19 found him not guilty on four counts, including criminally negligent homicide, in connection with the July 20, 2010, shooting death of Jason Kemp. They did not reach a verdict on two felonies: Second-degree assault and illegal discharge of a firearm.

Hautzinger, in today’s brief hearing in front of District Judge Richard Gurley, dismissed both remaining charges with prejudice, meaning they can’t be filed again.

“While I certainly promised the grand jury I would present the case, I can’t say it’s a prudent use of my limited resources to go through with another trial,” the DA said after today’s hearing.

The move comes as another trial is slated to start July 16 against State Patrol Cpl. Kirk Firko, who faces charges of first-degree criminal trespass and attempted criminal trespass, in connection with the same incident.

“I’ve made no decision with respect to that … it’s set for trial,” said Hautzinger, when asked about the likelihood of Firko’s case being heard by a jury.

Jurors in Lawyer’s trial told The Daily Sentinel after the verdicts that the final vote on the two hung counts was 10 in favor of acquittal, while two voted him guilty.

Eric Fenster, Lawyer’s attorney, said he expects his client will be called to testify against Firko. Lawyer would take the stand, although reluctantly, Fenster said.

“(Lawyer) wants this whole case to go away and has no desire to see Firko go to prison,” he said.

Kemp, 31, was fatally shot by Lawyer in the doorway of Kemp’s home at 103 Glade Park Road, Unit B, in what started as a non-injury traffic accident investigation by Lawyer and Firko involving Kemp, who was suspected of driving drunk. Lawyer testified he thought Kemp might have had a weapon and said he saw Kemp’s right arm raise up quickly when his front door suddenly flew open. Kemp was unarmed.

Prosecutors argued Lawyer’s and Firko’s repeated kicks on front door represented a violation of Kemp’s Fourth Amendment protections against unlawful, warrantless search and seizure. The defense, however, said Lawyer was acting with the scope of duties as a law enforcement officer and consistent with his State Patrol training.

Lawyer and Firko were indicted in October 2010 by Mesa County grand jury. Both remain on unpaid administrative leave from the State Patrol.

Lawyer today also briefly spoke with The Daily Sentinel.

Read the full story in Friday’s paper.


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