Not-so blind justice

In Eagle County, it seems, the kind of plea deal you receive as a criminal defendant depends on your financial situation.

Martin Erzinger, a Denver-based financial manager who oversees $1 billion in investments, avoided a felony charge and will serve only 90 days in jail for a July hit-and-run accident near Avon that left a New York bicyclist seriously injured.

Erzinger fled in his Mercedes, and maintained he didn’t know he had hit anyone. But he reportedly stopped to call a tow truck and was seen loading parts of his broken bumper into his trunk.

Although he was initially charged with a felony, District Attorney Mark Hurlbert offered him a deal that allowed him to plead to two misdemeanors. When the deal first became public in November, the Vail Daily quoted Hurlbert as saying, “Felony convictions have some pretty serious job implications for someone in Mr. Erzinger’s profession, and that entered into it.”

No doubt. But felony convictions also have pretty serious job implications for Joe and Jane Sixpack, who get by with modest paychecks. Would they receive the same consideration?

Hurlbert said Thursday that because Erzinger had insurance, his employment was no longer an issue. But he defended the plea deal as a good one.

Erzinger’s victim, Dr. Steven Milo, and his Denver attorney Hal Haddon, disagreed. Haddon, who is one of the best-known defense attorneys in Colorado, said that “in these kinds of instances, prosecutors can, should and do require felony pleas.”

Our justice system is credible only so long as it is fair to all. Lady Justice is blindfolded because she is not supposed to see any difference between the wealthy and powerful or those of lesser means.

Hurlbert and District Court Judge Fred Gannett have done inestimable violence to that idea with the plea agreement and sentence given to Erzinger.


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