Western Slope increasing target of federal prosecutions

Wyatt Angelo, left, and Dondi Osborne serve as assistant U.S. attorneys at the Grand Junction office. The federal government is stepping up enforcement and prosecution on the Western Slope by increasing staffing.



As Troy Eid went through training prior to his appointment as U.S. attorney for Colorado in August 2006, Congressional leaders advised him to close the branches in Grand Junction and Durango as a cost-cutting measure. They said the cities were too far away from the federal courthouse in Denver to be operated in a cost-efficient manner.

Eid responded by expanding the offices.

It’s one of many ways Eid has beefed up federal law-enforcement presence on the Western Slope since becoming the top federal prosecutor in the state, resulting in the filing of more criminal cases and an increased focus on cracking down on drug trafficking, illegal immigration and weapons offenses.

“We’re supposed to serve the entire state, and that was definitely a mission of mine,” Eid said.

Eid, who grew up in Colorado, said he is familiar with the Interstate 70 corridor stretching from Grand Junction to Eagle and U.S. Highway 50 to Montrose. In meeting with police chiefs, sheriffs and district attorneys in western Colorado, he said it became evident to him that violent crime and gang activity are on the rise here.

“It was clear to me that there was a lot that needed to be done,” he said. “We need to increase enforcement in that area.”

Eid began by adding a second assistant U.S. attorney and a student intern to the Grand Junction office, which for years was staffed by one assistant U.S. attorney.

“We’ve been able to move a lot more cases as a result,” Eid said.

The Grand Junction branch office prosecuted 35 cases across the Western Slope, except the southwest corner of the state, in 2007, compared to 22 cases in 2006, according to Jeff Dorschner, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Denver.

Eid has also secured two agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms who are permanently stationed in Grand Junction. Up until last year, none worked in Grand Junction.

Those agents are targeting felons who possess weapons, taking advantage of stricter federal penalties. Under state law, a felon who possesses a firearm or ammunition is eligible for up to 18 months in state prison. Under federal law, though, that same person can receive up to 10 years in federal prison, Eid said.

“It’s a huge hammer,” he said.


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