‘Brady cop’ tag for King
Dishonesty label may be downfall, but not necessarily
“A Brady issue is now ... a career blow. Possibly a blow to two careers.”
That, from former Fruita police officer Jared Wright in 2012, who went on to get elected and serve Colorado’s House District 54 after his firing from the police department during an internal affairs investigation. Wright pleaded with his boss not to notify Mesa County District Attorney Pete Hautzinger of a sustained finding of dishonesty, while expressing concern about attention that may come for a “Brady cop running for political office.”
Wright’s concern is now an issue for Republican Mesa County Sheriff nominee Steve King, who Mesa County Sheriff Rebecca Spiess has said will be the subject of a Brady letter sent to Hautzinger.
Named for the 1963 U.S. Supreme Court case Brady v. Maryland, prosecutors are required to provide notice to defense attorneys of sustained misconduct findings against police officers, allowing for impeachment of those officers on the witness stand.
Hautzinger on Wednesday declined comment on King’s internal affairs woes. He said he hasn’t seen Spiess’ letter.
“Our practice has been when we receive a Brady letter from a law enforcement agency, we will put that out (to defense lawyers) in discovery on every case where that individual is an endorsed witness,” Hautzinger said.
That notice essentially says there may be exculpatory evidence in the officer’s personnel file, he said.
The records at issue can be obtained through subpoena, or, a judge can review personnel files “in camera,” or in private, for anything that may be considered exculpatory.
“It’s a bell that’s hard to un-ring,” Hautzinger said of a Brady cop label. “It’s a big deal, no question, but it’s not necessarily fatal for the cases they are witnesses in.”
A Brady letter isn’t always fatal to a cop’s career, either.
“There are multiple, multiple examples since I’ve been in this office of sustained findings of dishonesty by an officer where a Brady letter was generated and went out to defense counsel,” Hautzinger said. “They’ve (officers) stayed on the force but they’ve been questioned on cross-examination about that issue probably a dozen times.”
That’s true for “more than five, less than 10,” officers locally during his tenure, Hautzinger said.
King is not an endorsed witness on any active Mesa County case, he said, but that may change soon. Hautzinger’s office is pondering a retrial of 51-year-old Michael Blagg in the November 2001 death of his wife. As he was in 2004, King may be called as a witness, as he worked as a Sheriff’s Office investigator heavily involved in the Blagg investigation.
Internal affairs records provided Tuesday to The Daily Sentinel under the Colorado Open Records Act show King was found to have falsified at least one timecard this past May while working in a temporary capacity, aside from violating five code-of-conduct standards.
King was fired by former sheriff Stan Hilkey on June 6, 18 days before Tuesday’s primary election.