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City plan to snuff socialist infiltration hearing blows up in courtroom’s face

El Paso County undercovers
COLORADO SPRINGS, COLORADO– If you attended today’s evidentiary hearing about the police infiltration of a local student group, you are no doubt left wondering what happened. Where were the defendants and why was the judge so angry? The outcome was not what either side wanted, but still it was a huge false step for the city. The defense was not provided the police witnesses it requested, but the prosecution was prevented from quashing those subpoenas outright. As a truant co-defendant, I had a unique vantage point on today’s anticlimax and I apologize I was unable to explain it in person.

Today’s hearing, it turns out, was supposed to exclude the defendants. The review of evidence relating to the police infiltration operation was intended to happen outside of public view. The lawyers signed the setting slips, not the defendants, who were kept uninformed of the October 17 hearing. The judge had specified lawyers only, to keep the details and identities of the undercovers confidential.

Can courts exclude defendants from their own hearings? Not really, but anyway.

It turns out the judge wanted privacy because she had no intention of conducting the hearing at all. Without an audience to offend, this judge planned to summarily quash the defense motions to make police administrators testify and that would be the end of it. Objections be damned, let the lawyers take it up on appeal. Push this hot potato off a year or two.

However, through documents obtained directly from the courthouse, the defendants did learn about the hearing. So the defendants made plans to attend the hearing regardless of a judge’s preferences, and they publicized the event for what it promised to be, a scandalous exposé of CSPD intelligence overreach. Subpoenaed to testify were El Paso County Sheriff Bill Elder, Colorado Springs Police Chief Peter Carey, Lieutenant Mark Comte of the CSPD Intelligence Divison, and Sergeant Clayton Blackwell, among others.

Colorado Springs prosecutors did not inform the defense team that they had no intention of honoring those subpoenas. Instead they planned to motion to quash the subpoenas and truncate the hearing. The city attorneys did not file those motions beforehand nor give the defense any indication they were contesting the subpoenas.

I can only surmise that the city prosecutors began receiving calls from the media about the anticipated testimony of the sheriff and chief of police, because it wasn’t until late morning on the day of the hearing, after our press release went out, that the city emailed the defense team to say that “Sgt Blackwell is on vacation.” Blackwell wouldn’t be attending the hearing, they said, and by the way, his was the only subpoena delivered.

To which I imagine our legal team said: WTF?! Now we needed a hearing to learn why the city thought it could unilaterally decide to whom to deliver our subpoenas.

It’s one thing to disrespect the rights of defendants. Our municipal court does it ALL THE TIME. Everyday, sadly. In fact, it’s done it repeatedly to the very defendants in this case, before we got lawyers. But it’s quite another thing to trample on our rights when a civil rights attorney is involved.

If Blackwell was on vacation, the case needed a continuance. And if subpoenas were going to be quashed, we needed a motions hearing. Oddly, the judge was demanding our defense attorneys show up in person. To arrange a continuance?! Riiiiiight.

Our lawyers quickly let us know there was to be no hearing. Since the defendants weren’t supposed to attend today’s hearing anyway, we deemed it prudent not to attend the prosecution’s switcheroo. Without defendants, whatever the prosecution planned couldn’t proceed. Meanwhile the defense lawyers weren’t going to abide a Podunk Springs Judge Roy Bean throwing the law book out the window. If subpoenas aren’t going to be honored, you have to present the legal basis beforehand. Them’s the rules, Hayseeds.

So the courtroom audience, including journalists and media crews who had to leave their television cameras outside, were left to witness a Colorado Springs judge fuming at being out-thunk. The defense lawyers weren’t there to let her quash away with her gavel, without regard for the Colorado Rules of Proceedure, and the judge’s original scheme excluded the defendants so as a result there were no defendants present to accept her rulings. The judge could do nothing but seethe and lecture the audience about big lawyers disrespecting municipal courts. Nevermind that our courts are corrupt mechanisms that trample rights for breakfast. (The ACLU recently released a report damning Alamosa’s city courts: Justice Derailed. Believe me, the identical abuses of power occur in Colorado Springs.)

Nevermind too, what today’s court hearing was supposed to be about: Outrageous Conduct on the part of CSPD and EPCSO, and violations of the Code of Federal Conduct. Today’s defendants were arrested on March 26, 2017, but not for walking in the street. The socialists were arrested because the Intelligence Division wanted to “arrest” an undercover officer, maybe two, in order to give them deeper cover as they infiltrated a student-led group just formed in Colorado Springs. The CSPD body-cam video released to the defendants already proves this. We wanted the decision makers responsible to explain it.

Instead of a comedy of errors spotlighting local law enforcement ignoring the people’s Bill of Rights, the courtroom audience today saw another facet of our corrupt judicial system. They witnessed a judge prepared to ride roughshod over further rights that protect citizens from authoritarian zeal. You may not care how police abuse “socialists” but the whims of a municipal court despot affect everyone caught in their dragnet, be it a ticket or a zoning dispute. Even with an expensive lawyer, you are powerless to object when a judge pretends there are no rules.

What the judge saw today was a courtroom filled with supporters of the defendants and a media interested in their story. She saw that she and her gavel are not going to make this story go away.

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