Defiant ex-DA gets 1 year in prison, probation
MONTROSE—With his victims looking on in court Thursday, former 7th Judicial District Attorney Myrl Serra apologized to the judge for his unkempt hair.
Serra, 50, then launched a rambling denial of criminal wrongdoing against the three women, all of them his former employees, who outlined for the Colorado Bureau of Investigation a hellish three-year pattern of sexual harassment, intimidation and sexual assault while working under threats of being fired.
Serra called his interactions with the women flirtatious and “inappropriate,” and sometimes physical but consensual.
“Though she never conveyed any wish to cease these physical activities, it does not excuse my lack of judgment for first engaging in these activities, especially at work,” Serra told Mesa County Chief District Judge David Bottger.
He then turned to his second victim. Serra addressed all three of the women by name.
“I put myself in a bad situation through a combination of poor judgment and lack of respect for my position ... a loss of moral integrity,” he said. “I never took into account the position of power to which I had been entrusted.”
Bottger sentenced Serra to one year in prison and four years of probation, to be served consecutively. The former DA was credited with 136 days already served in the Montrose County Jail.
Serra may avoid seeing the inside of a regular state prison facility, such as the Colorado State Penitentiary in Canon City.
First Assistant Attorney General Robert Shapiro said it’s possible Serra might be transported and held for the duration of his prison term at the Denver Diagnostics and Reception Center, where new inmates at the Colorado Department of Corrections are routinely evaluated for placement within the system, and returned to Montrose before the end of 2012.
Bottger ordered Serra to serve an additional 60 days at the Montrose County Jail upon his release from prison.
Calling his assessment of Serra’s prospects for success on probation “guarded at best,” Shapiro said he “would not find it unreasonable to be back here within a year on a possible probation violation” by Serra.
“We would have preferred he’d gotten a wake-up call in prison,” the prosecutor said.
Shapiro had asked Bottger for an eight-year sentence, while the one-year prison term imposed by Bottger was the minimum sentence available to the judge. Serra could have received up to 12 years in prison after he entered an Alford plea Oct. 18 to charges of felony criminal extortion and misdemeanor unlawful sexual contact. Under an Alford plea, defendants admit no wrongdoing.
‘NARCISSISM DISORDER’ CITED
One of Serra’s victims sobbed loudly in the courtroom when Serra mentioned her by name as he addressed the judge.
“Although seemingly encouraged by the victim at the time, I should have never have given them a foothold,” Serra said of his third victim. “I own my mistakes. I always have.”
Bottger was skeptical.
“I don’t believe there was any conspiracy of evil-minded women in Mr. Serra’s office,” Bottger said. “I do believe the victims’ version of events. Either that, or they are the most astonishing actresses I have ever met.”
He added, “this court and this community owes them a debt of gratitude.”
One of Serra’s two attorneys, M. Colin Bresee, said on Thursday that a presentence report showed Serra had a previously undiagnosed narcissism disorder, while assessing Serra as being at low risk to re-offend.
Bottger ordered nearly two dozen specific conditions Serra must comply with while completing sex-offender specific treatment. Serra will be allowed contact with his 10-year-old son, despite being enrolled in sex offender-specific treatment, Bottger ruled.
The judge ordered that Serra have no contact with anyone under age 18.
Bresee said his client acknowledged in the presentence report some 40 separate incidents of misconduct. Bresee did not elaborate.
Among the disclosures, Serra acknowledged an incident as a deputy prosecutor in the 7th Judicial District Attorney’s Office when he was caught viewing pornography on an office computer, Shapiro told the judge. Serra was reprimanded by the elected district attorney at the time, who was not identified Thursday.
“That did not deter him from going back to his old habits on the taxpayers’ dime, in the workplace,” Shapiro said.
Fast-forward to September 2010, Shapiro said, and a forensic analysis of Serra’s office- issued laptop computer showed he was downloading pornography within 24 hours of his arrest by CBI agents, Shapiro said. “If that didn’t deter him, will this?” the prosecutor said after Thursday’s hearing.
Serra first was jailed in September 2010 on suspicion of unlawful sexual contact with force, criminal extortion, indecent exposure and official misconduct, involving the three women who worked in his offices in Montrose and Delta.
One accuser testified during a preliminary hearing that Serra cornered her inside his office in April 2010, grabbed her breast and then her hand and forced her to touch his genitals.
Shapiro told Bottger on Thursday that the CBI found Serra’s DNA profile on semen that was collected in his own office, in addition to a second office that belonged to one of his victims.
Serra was arrested again in December 2010 in connection with an encounter with one of his victims at a department store in Montrose. The woman testified Serra stared at her in an intimidating way, smirking at her as she tried to hide behind a clothing rack.
Serra was convicted by a jury in Aug. 31 of violating bail-bond conditions, harassment and violation of a protection order.
He was disbarred by the Colorado Supreme Court last month. In a written statement in his defense during the disbarment process, Serra ended a letter with, “P.S. — I didn’t do any of these things.”