Appeals Court retreats on wiretapping ruling

The Colorado Court of Appeals last week withdrew an opinion that deemed a series of wiretaps were illegal in the investigation of a large Mesa County drug ring.

While withdrawing its opinion released March 4 in the case of convicted 43-year-old drug supplier Tommy O’Hara, the Court of Appeals ordered the matter to be reviewed by a judge in Colorado Springs.

The judge will be tasked with determining “whether the elected district attorney (Pete Hautzinger) authorized” wiretaps in the investigation of O’Hara and 30 others linked to an organization run by Stephen Parsons, according to the Court of Appeals’ ruling Thursday.

The court in March found Hautzinger didn’t personally sign applications for the wiretaps, but concluded he was informed of and involved with the wiretap program.

That, in the court’s view, didn’t necessarily mean he authorized the applications.

“It is the district attorney’s specific authorization of a specific wiretap application, not his involvement in the investigation, which safeguards the public’s privacy against this extraordinary investigative devise,” the court’s opinion said.

The decision ordered a new trial for O’Hara, who is serving a 96-year sentence, and suppressed hours of recorded evidence.

The Court of Appeals, however, reversed itself after arguments were lodged by the Colorado Attorney General’s office, which said Hautzinger and Chief Deputy District Attorney Dan Rubinstein were prepared to testify that Hautzinger had personally approved the wiretaps, despite the fact Hautzinger’s signature doesn’t appear on the applications.


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