Mark-Hurbert.jpg

February 17, 20187min407

After two mistrials ended in near convictions, special prosecutors on Friday moved to dismiss felony corruption charges against former El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa.

Lead prosecutor Mark Hurlbert said Maketa’s back-to-back mistrials damaged the chances for conviction because both juries threw out some charges — limiting the scope of their evidence and making it difficult to show a new panel the “totality” of his alleged abuses of power.

“Ultimately, we came to the conclusion that we couldn’t prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt anymore,” said Hurlbert, a prosecutor in the 18th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, which handled the case.

The decision comes less than two weeks after a jury acquitted Maketa of two misdemeanor counts and split 10-2 for conviction on two felonies.

Authorities also plan to dismiss charges against ex-Undersheriff Paula Presley, Maketa’s second-in-command, the office confirmed. All charges against a third former sheriff’s official, ex-Cmdr. Juan “John” San Agustin, were tossed in October.

Prosecutors fell short of obtaining any convictions in what they called serious abuses of power during Maketa’s rocky third term in office. His alleged schemes involved jailing a domestic violence victim to protect a personal friend; a bid to secure career-ending sanctions against a trio of insurgent deputies; and a series of politically motivated investigations meant to tar political rivals.

Attorneys for Maketa and Presley did not return voice mails seeking comment.

Within hours, news of the dismissal had generated political ammunition against 18th Judicial District Attorney George Brauchler, a Republican candidate for attorney general.

Although he didn’t personally try the case, Brauchler’s “repeated dismissal of charges and failure to notch a single conviction against Maketa shows he’s either incompetent or actively helping a fellow Republican escape justice,” Colorado Democratic Party spokesman Eric Walker said in a written statement.

Maketa, a popular three-term sheriff, was a rising star in the El Paso County Republican Party, frequently cited as a potential candidate for higher office.

Brauchler wasn’t available Friday for comment, spokeswoman Vikki Migoya said. During his interview, Hurlbert confirmed that Brauchler signed off on the dismissal.

The 18th Judicial District comprises Arapahoe, Elbert, Lincoln and Douglas counties. The office agreed to assist with a Colorado Bureau of Investigation probe into Maketa at the request of 4th Judicial District Attorney Dan May, who recused his office citing potential conflicts. A judge appointed them to try the case after a grand jury voted to indict the trio.

Maketa, 53, was initially indicted alongside Presley on nine counts, including felony counts of false imprisonment, second-degree kidnapping, extortion and victim tampering. San Agustin was charged with two counts.

The prosecution was troubled by the resignation of Hurlbert’s former co-counsel, Grant Fevurly, which forced a trial postponement, and by the dismissal of kidnapping and false imprisonment charges before Maketa went before a jury.

In his motion to dismiss the case, filed on Friday, Hurlbert cited the thin margins that kept Maketa from conviction, citing reporting in The Gazette that jurors deadlocked 11-1 for conviction at his first trial and fell two votes short of securing convictions on extortion-related felonies at his second mistrial, declared on Feb. 5.

Hurlbert defended his team. “I firmly believe that we tried two very good cases at a very high level,” he said.

The dismissal is unlikely to play a significant role in Brauchler’s bid for attorney general, said Colorado College professor emeritus and political scientist Bob Loevy, calling Maketa’s trial a “county issue” with little relevance to voters statewide.

The charges “are not likely to have traction politically,” Loevy said.

Daniel Cole of the El Paso County Republicans called the Democrats’ criticism of Brauchler a “weak attempt” at politicizing the decision.

Brauchler, Cole said, would treat “any other defendant the same way.”

The forewoman at Maketa’s first trial, Mary Mraz, previously told the newspaper she would be “disappointed in the system” if Maketa weren’t held to account for what she saw as crimes.

Mraz blamed a lone holdout who refused to believe “any of the witnesses” and seemed to have a fondness for Maketa, referring to him as “Terry” throughout deliberations.

“I think she was not maybe a plant, but I don’t think she was honest when she answered the questionnaire that she didn’t have an opinion coming into it,” she previously told the newspaper.

A juror at Maketa’s second mistrial said all but two panelists were convinced that he was guilty of two extortion-related counts for threatening to terminate a $5 million jail contract unless a medical services provider agreed to fire a former ally who had crossed him: “There was a lot of evidence,” she said.

In dismissing the case, Hurlbert acknowledged that “a lot” wasn’t enough.

“Ultimately, we were able to take it to the people of El Paso County, and they spoke,” he said.

The motions to dismiss Maketa’s and Presley’s cases must first be granted by a judge, which is widely seen as a formality.

It’s unclear if the judge’s dismissal will come before Maketa’s next scheduled court appearance on Feb. 27.

Jakob Rodgers of The Gazette contributed to this story.


Screen-Shot-2017-09-01-at-11.12.52-AM.png

September 27, 20177min1045

A 26-year-old man pleaded guilty Tuesday in a fatal auto-pedestrian crash similar to one involving a top El Paso County Republican Party official.

One major difference: Where Ricardo Trevizo admitted to a serious driving infraction that will mean two years on probation and 250 hours of community service, the other driver, then-El Paso County Republican Party Chairman Trevor Dierdorff, got off scot-free.

The crashes occurred within six weeks of one other in Colorado Springs, and each involved an elderly victim and a driver’s fateful decision to throw a car in reverse in a drive lane.

The Gazette previously documented how 4th Judicial District Attorney Dan May, a Republican, dismissed all traffic counts against Dierdorff, 45, hours after police cited him for careless driving resulting in the April death of pedestrian Mel Tolbert, the longtime owner of Platte Floral downtown.

In dismissing Dierdorff’s charges, May pointed out that Tolbert, 79, was crossing against a light 25 feet from the intersection, and also emphasized Dierdorff’s report that he checked his rear-view mirrors before backing. It is not illegal to drive in reverse, he said.

But a police report obtained by The Gazette showed that investigators concluded that Dierdorff was “racing” another driver to an on-street parking spot when the deadly collision occurred.

May ignored repeated requests through his spokeswoman to address veteran police detective Dan Smoker’s finding that video surveillance rebutted Dierdorff’s claims that he exercised due caution before backing up on Tejon, a high-traffic street in downtown Colorado Springs.

“From the video, Mr. Dierdorff did not look in all the mirrors and did not check his blind spots. Had he done so he would have taken more than 1.0 second to change the gear selector, look in the three mirrors, check blind spots to his left rear and right rear, and ascertain it was safe to back up,” Smoker wrote.

The fatal crash occurred near the tony, politically connected El Paso Club, where Dierdorff and Tolbert were headed for the same meeting.

In a written statement Tuesday, the District Attorney’s Office restated May’s argument that Dierdorff should not be prosecuted because the victim was jaywalking.

“If the pedestrian is jaywalking, the car has the right-of-way,” the statement read.

Tim Bussey, a former El Paso County prosecutor now working in criminal defense, said he was surprised by the DA’s position that vehicles need not yield to jaywalkers.

“If someone is jaywalking, you can’t just say, ‘Hey, you can run them over,'” he said. “The duty is upon the vehicle driver to yield to any pedestrian, whether jaywalker or in a crosswalk. But it always boils down to whether or not the person was careless.”

The decision as to whether Dierdorff was careless would fall on prosecutors, Bussey added.

Dierdorff resigned his post with the county Republican Party this month, citing a desire to spend more time with his family and his career. He did not respond to a phone message left with a receptionist at a technology support company he owns or to written messages sent through two social media sites.

Trevizo, who is unemployed, was likewise faulted for hitting a pedestrian while driving in reverse, in a May 11 crash at Baylor Drive and East San Miguel Street in a neighborhood on the city’s east side.

In pleading guilty, Trevizo said he overshot a stop sign in the southbound lane of Baylor and decided to back up in order to clear the intersection. He said he checked his mirror but didn’t see Manuel “Pete” Peak, 86, who was walking a dog and attempted to cross behind him.

After feeling the impact of hitting Peak, Trevizo’s passenger called 911, and Trevizo applied pressure to Peak’s head wound until emergency crews arrived. Peak died six days later.

“Today I accept the consequences of my actions and pray for Mr. Peak and his family, that they may forgive me,” Trevizo told County Court Judge Shannon Gerhart.

In its statement Tuesday, the District Attorney’s Office said Trevizo was charged because Peak was “legally in the crosswalk.” There is no marked crosswalk at the Baylor Drive intersection, a Gazette reporter confirmed, although pedestrians have right-of-way at intersections.

Peak was recalled by family members as generous and loving –a vibrant man with a zest for life and level of community involvement belying his age.

After the 2012 death of Leva Peak, his wife of six decades, Peak continued volunteering at Sunnyside Christian Church in Colorado Springs and bowled twice a week in separate leagues.

“If he could have got up, he would have run to the car door and said, ‘Are you OK?'” said Jack Brooks, a son-in-law. “That’s just the kind of guy he was.”

Trevizo’s license was suspended and he had no insurance at the time of the crash. The basis for the suspension was a $220 court fine that Trevizo had paid months earlier without realizing he had to petition to renew his driver’s license, his attorney said.

Now, Trevizo will be without a license for at least a year, Judge Gerhart said. Peak’s grown son and daughter agreed to a plea agreement that took jail time off the table so long as Trevizo met several conditions requiring him to recognize his guilt and make amends.

The conditions included community service with a Colorado brain injury group; speaking about his experiences at churches and schools; completing an advanced driver’s course; and providing monthly proof of a license and insurance should he be regranted a license during his probation.


07_11_17-maketa0171-1024x728.jpg

September 6, 20173min391

Ex-El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa will get a three-month reprieve before he is re-tried on corruption allegations.

Fourth Judicial District Judge Larry E. Schwartz on Tuesday approved a defense request to postpone Maketa’s Oct. 3 re-trial until Jan. 27. The judge also agreed to postpone former Undersheriff Paula Presley’s October trial until Feb. 25.

Former sheriff’s Cmdr. Juan “John” San Agustin did not ask for a continuance and remains on track for a Nov. 7 trial.

Attorneys for the three defendants hashed out next steps in the case during a conference call in Schwartz’s courtroom. Maketa was on the line, his attorney said, but didn’t speak.

Maketa, 52, had a two-week trial beginning June 27 that ended in irresolution, with a jury acquitting him on three counts and deadlocking on four. Prosecutors announced days later that they would re-try him on the remaining charges: extortion, conspiracy to commit extortion and two counts of official misconduct.

In asking for a new trial date, David Kaplan of Denver, one of Maketa’s attorneys, said his legal team needs more time to evaluate a possible defense witness. Kaplan also said his client might need surgery, and Maketa wanted to pursue an “employment opportunity” that conflicted with the October trial setting. No specifics on either topic were given in court.

Maketa, who left office under a cloud in December 2014, is part owner of Mak-3 Construction LLC., a commercial builder based in Wasilla, Alaska, records show. Maketa retains a home in Colorado Springs, according to company filings.

Prosecutors said in court they intend to pursue two felony counts of kidnapping against San Agustin even though they dismissed those charges against Maketa before his first trial. Lead prosecutor Mark Hurlbert had different evidence against the men.

The kidnapping counts allege that San Agustin ordered the arrest and jailing of a domestic violence victim after she was coerced into dropping allegations against a one-time deputy who was a friend of Maketa’s. Those allegations also fueled the witness intimidation counts against Maketa that a jury threw out.

Maketa and his former top officials are accused of a variety of abuses of power, including claims that Maketa threatened to terminate a $5.2 million-a-year contract unless the contractor fired a personal rival – the most serious allegation Maketa will face at his second trial.

The official misconduct counts against Maketa, both misdemeanors, allege that he sought a potentially career-ending sanction against two deputies because they had crossed him politically.


leadBig-df6be2a1d8d42b8c8368c14fb0b90161.jpg

August 1, 20177min189
A bullet that flew into his living room and passed within a quarter-inch of his face brought Gilbert “Gil” Martinez to a sobering conclusion. “If someone wants to shoot you,” the veteran El Paso County judge said, “they can probably shoot you from a block-and-a-half away.” How it feels to be in a sniper’s crosshairs […]

This content is only available to subscribers.

Login or Subscribe


07_11_17-maketa0171-1024x728.jpg

July 16, 201711min590

In failing to resolve the criminal case against ex-El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa, a District Court jury forced a dilemma on a candidate for governor.

A veteran political observer says the decision on whether to retry the embattled lawman on four remaining counts could have political costs for Republican gubernatorial candidate George Brauchler, who leads the 18th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, which prosecuted the case.

If Brauchler’s office decides to drop Maketa’s charges, Brauchler could be accused of letting a fellow Republican skate on sweeping allegations of corruption.

If his office pushes for a new trial, he could alienate parts of the Republican base in El Paso County, where Maketa has his sympathizers.

“It’s a media disaster,” said Bob Loevy, a retired Colorado College political science professor and longtime political analyst in El Paso County. “To have this stretch into the gubernatorial primary and then possibly the general election in 2018, the Republican Party doesn’t need that at all, not in its most significant county.”

El Paso County boasts more Republicans than any county in the state. Although it doesn’t always have the numbers to sway a general election, it does have the potential to decide which Republican makes it past the primary, Loevy said.

Brauchler, perhaps best known as the prosecutor of the Aurora theater shooter, is part of what could be a crowded field of Republicans vying for a shot at succeeding term-limited Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper. Brauchler did not personally prosecute the Maketa case, which ended in a partial mistrial last week when a jury acquitted the former three-term sheriff on three counts and failed to reach a verdict on four others.

But he will be personally involved in the decision whether to retry Maketa, lead prosecutor Mark Hurlbert said after the verdicts.

The impending Maketa decision comes at a time when signature-gathering has already begun for the governor’s race. Republican caucuses – another path to getting onto the ballot – are the first week of March.

Whether prosecutors intend to retry Maketa could become clear at 9 a.m. Monday, when attorneys in the case will join 4th Judicial District Judge Larry E. Schwartz for a courtroom conference call to discuss the next step. Brauchler’s office was assigned the case after El Paso County District Attorney Dan May recused his office, saying he wanted to avoid the appearance of any bias or impropriety. Brauchler declined through a spokeswoman to address questions for this story, citing the still-active case.

From a legal standpoint, the decision could come down to whether prosecutors believe a different jury could convict on the remaining counts.

How the Maketa jury split is so far a mystery, because panelists declined to address reporters and attorneys after delivering verdicts.

“I think both sides would make an effort to find out how the jury reached the decisions it did,” said retired Denver attorney Phil Cherner, who represented Chuck E. Cheese killer Nathan Dunlap at trial. “There’s a big difference between 11-1 in one direction and 10-2 in the other direction. That’s going to impact both sides’ decisions.”

If the split verdicts tilted toward guilty, it could help prosecutors justify the time and expense of a second trial, attorneys say.

“It’s tremendously expensive to retry a case like this just as it is to defend,” said longtime Colorado Springs defense attorney Richard Tegtmeier.

Cherner disagreed that prosecutorial resources would dictate the decision.

“I don’t think that’s much of a factor,” Cherner said. “For a major metropolitan District Attorney’s Office with thousands of cases on their desks, a two-week trial is nothing spectacular, even 50 miles down the highway.”

Expenses could also be a factor in how Maketa weighs his next steps, especially if plea negotiations are ongoing.

His defense team – led by Pamela Mackey of Denver, known for representing former NBA superstar Kobe Bryant – probably charged in excess of $100,000, several attorneys told The Gazette. Tegtmeier called that figure “way, way low.” Colorado Springs attorney Danny Kay, also unaffiliated with the case, said that Maketa’s legal bill will likely approach $500,000, including expenses from jury consultants and mock trials to test arguments in advance.

El Paso County spokesman Dave Rose said the county wasn’t responsible for paying any of Maketa’s legal fees to defend the criminal case. How Maketa bankrolled his premier defense team is unclear.

Family members and supporters generally pitch in, attorneys say, and prominent people may have access to deep pockets.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if there’s a defense fund out there,” said attorney Phil Dubois of Colorado Springs.

Dubois said it’s “almost inconceivable” that Maketa’s fee would cover a second trial, meaning he’d have to reach just as deep to hire Mackey’s team for a second round.

Tegtmeier said defendants who cannot afford a second round may be more inclined to plead guilty to make serious charges go away – a factor that he said isn’t lost on prosecutors.

Political considerations for Brauchler turn on Maketa’s complicated standing in El Paso County.

Before his administration imploded near the conclusion of his final term, Maketa was described as a “golden boy” and a “rising star” in El Paso County Republican politics – praised for his defense of gun rights and floated as a candidate for higher office once he was term-limited as sheriff.

Although some Republicans were repelled by allegations against him, “many others” remain loyal, and could register their frustrations at the ballot box if Maketa is brought to trial a second time, Loevy said.

But not everyone agrees that Brauchler needs to fear political consequences.

Joshua Dunn, a political science professor at the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs, said the two-week trial this month lent him “political cover.”

If prosecutors drop charges, they can argue that retrying Maketa would be a waste of judicial resources with slim hopes for success, Dunn said. If they request a second trial, Brauchler could argue that allegations of corruption in office are serious enough to merit it. Among the remaining counts are two extortion charges alleging that Maketa threatened to yank a $5 million-per-year jail health care contract unless the contractor fired a woman who had crossed him politically.

Said Dunn: “There might be some people – there might be many – who are still very loyal to Maketa. But I also get the sense that there are people who are really disgusted with his behavior.”

Those supporters might object to a retrial, “but they’re not going to shed a tear over it,” he said.

“My sense is that it’s likely to be a wash either way,” Dunn added.

Daniel Cole, who served as executive director of the El Paso County Republican Party during Maketa’s waning days in office, agreed that El Paso County is a titan when it comes to the primary season – the most important county in the state.

But he dismissed the idea Maketa has any remaining stock with once-passionate supporters, despite his partial acquittal.

“I see no evidence that Maketa has lingering support in El Paso County,” said Cole, who is now a spokesman for the state Republican Party. “In fact, I literally couldn’t name a single person that still supports Maketa.”

Even though Maketa was accused of devising phony investigations in a bid to derail the campaigns of then-Republican sheriff’s candidates Bill Elder and James “Jim” Reid, the Maketa case shouldn’t be viewed in political terms, Cole argued.

“It’s not as if his political affiliations led him to favor one candidate over another,” Cole said. “Political affiliations were irrelevant to the consideration because they weren’t a variable.”

Whatever Maketa’s lingering support, political observers agreed there’s little question his political career is over.

El Paso County residents – especially members of the influential evangelical base – are unlikely to forget reports that Maketa, who is married, pursued sex from subordinates, nor the image of him posing for a shirtless selfie that ran on the front page of The Gazette next to a story detailing lurid text messages to a woman under his command.

“Obviously there was wrongdoing, and he acknowledged it,” Cole said. “He won’t be vindicated for that. The criminal charges are one thing, but there’s no way he’ll ever be able to repair his reputation completely.”

If the remaining charges are tossed, Maketa would evade criminal culpability, but suspicions are likely to remain, Dunn said.

“It’s still just kind of lingering out there,” he said. “He would never be completely clear.”


07_11_17-maketa0171-1024x728.jpg

July 11, 20175min371

A partial mistrial has been declared in the trial of ex-Sheriff Terry Maketa, who was acquitted Tuesday on three of the charges against him and had a deadlocked jury on his other four counts.

Maketa was found not guilty of witness tampering, conspiracy to commit witness tampering and official misconduct. The jury was deadlocked on the other four counts. A jury forewoman said they could not come to agreement on the other charges and had nothing else to discuss.

“We’re thrilled it was a victory,” Maketa said after the jury was dismissed. On the hung counts, he added: “Twelve jurors could not unanimously accept the prosecution’s case, and that’s all I’m going to say.”

All 12 jurors were led out of the courthouse by two sheriff’s deputies and two clerks. One clerk said none of the jurors wanted to talk to the media.

District Judge Larry E. Schwartz has set a conference to discuss next steps for 9 a.m. July 17.

Update 4:10 p.m. 

Jurors have “concluded deliberations” in the trial of ex-sheriff Terry Maketa. The parties will convene in the courtroom shortly. There has been no word yet if there is a verdict. Gazette reporters are at the courthouse and will report the outcome as soon as it is announced.

Update 1 p.m. 

Jurors weighing the fate of ex-Sheriff Terry Maketa say they may already be deadlocked.

After less than five hours spent trying to reach a verdict, the six-man, six-woman panel sent two jury questions hinting at deep divisions.

After the latest, which came shortly before lunch, presiding District Judge Larry E. Schwartz agreed to deliver a “modified Allen instruction,” which is read to jurors by court staff after they have indicated they are unable to reach an accord.

“I’m going to give it to them to see if it helps them in terms of reaching a verdict,” Schwartz said.

The modified Allen instruction encourages jurors to resolve their differences “without violence to individual judgment.”

The actual language of the jury’s comments wasn’t read in court, but the significance of the court’s response is clear, experts said.

“What it probably indicates is there’s some fairly divided jurors,” said Colorado Springs attorney Joshua Tolini, who is unaffiliated with the case. “People are coming in there with some pretty definite opinions, and the chance of compromise is pretty limited.”

If the jury is unable to come to a unanimous decision, a mistrial or partial mistrial could be called.

But that’s a decision that won’t be rushed, said Colorado Springs attorney Phil Dubois, also unaffiliated.

“You don’t declare mistrial after just a few hours of jury work, even in a DUI case, never mind this.”

The jury is likely to determine the next steps, based on how their deliberations progress after receiving the modified Allen instruction, Tolini said. If the jury indicates no progress, “they’ll bring everyone in try to figure out what to do.”

Maketa, 52, faces seven counts, including four felonies: extortion, conspiracy to commit extortion, witness tampering and conspiracy to commit witness tampering. His trial began June 27, with two days of jury selection, and the case went to the panel on the sixth day of testimony.

The jury received the case at 4 p.m. Monday and went home an hour later. The panel resumed at 8:30 a.m. today.

Gazette reporter Jakob Rodgers contributed to this story.


unnamed-1-1-1024x656.jpg

July 8, 20177min224

Prosecutors on Friday called their final witness against ex-Sheriff Terry Maketa – a former confidant whose allegations could be considered the closest thing to a smoking gun in the corruption trial.

Jacqueline Kirby, the sheriff’s executive assistant for a decade, was revealed as the source of the claims that Maketa and his second-in-command, Undersheriff Paula Presley, were in possession of the so-called Elder file even as they accused several deputies of stealing it.

She described a February 2013 meeting at the Sheriff’s Office at which Maketa and Presley were discussing a disciplinary file belonging to then-sheriff’s candidate Bill Elder that went missing from a locked Internal Affairs room two months earlier.

“He looked at the undersheriff and said, ‘You need to bring me the file,'” Kirby recalled on the stand. “Undersheriff Presley said, ‘I’m going to have to go home and get it.’ And he said, ‘Well, that’s what you need to do.'”

Hours later, Kirby walked past Maketa’s office and saw him and Presley going through an “old banker’s box” containing multiple files, she said. Presley closed the office door as Kirby passed, and she didn’t get a look at the records.

In a corruption case steeped in nuance and conflicting stories, Kirby’s testimony may be the prosecution’s best chance at convincing jurors that Maketa knowingly maneuvered to destroy the careers of deputies who had crossed him under the false pretense they had taken the file.

Whether the bombshell actually landed could become clear by early next week. The case is expected to proceed to closing arguments, then go to the jury for deliberations, as early as Monday afternoon. Maketa, 52, has yet to announce whether he will testify. He faces seven counts, including four felonies, on allegations that he resorted to extortion, witness tampering and other crimes during his troubled third term in office.

The defense, led by Denver attorney Pamela Mackey, moved swiftly to remove the sting from Kirby’s claims by suggesting that she changed her story before trial to exaggerate the strength of the evidence against Maketa.

During cross-examination, Mackey cited a 2015 interview with the Colorado Bureau of Investigation in which Kirby allowed for the possibility she could have been wrong about the closed-door meeting with Maketa and Presley.

In that interview, Kirby said if Maketa and Presley weren’t discussing the Elder file, “it sure had something to do with it.”

On the stand, Kirby stood her ground: “As far as I understood, it was the missing Elder file.”

The defense also emphasized testimony by sheriff’s Cmdr. Jeff Kramer, who attended the same meeting.

Kramer recalled Maketa and Presley referring to disciplinary records of some kind involving Elder, but said it wasn’t made clear if the two were discussing the Elder file – an Internal Affairs report said to be up to 2 inches thick.

Another person said to be at the meeting, Lt. Joseph Roybal, said he had no recollection of being there. Testimony by Roybal and Kramer seemed to challenge Kirby’s recollection that the two of them looked at her in shock after Presley’s apparent admission.

Discussion of the February 2013 meeting came after the jury heard from Elder, who introduced another wrinkle in the saga over the missing file, claiming it didn’t exist. Elder, who was elected sheriff in 2014, denied he had ever been the subject of an Internal Affairs investigation.

Wearing his gray sheriff’s uniform, Elder told jurors that he worked for the Sheriff’s Office from 1979 to 1998 and left with no Internal Affairs findings against him.

Elder said that after his departure, he was notified that a former subordinate, Sgt. Bill Claspell, was under scrutiny for how Claspell calculated compensation time for deputies, based on a method he had learned from Elder, his former boss.

That audit happened in May 1998, two months after Elder’s departure, the current sheriff testified, denying he played any role in the disappearance of a disciplinary file.

“I didn’t think there was an IA file,” he said. “Therefore I didn’t direct anybody to steal it.”

The defense advanced an alternate theory about the file discussed by Maketa and Presley, saying it actually belonged to Claspell, who ended up being disciplined over time keeping errors. That explanation plays on earlier testimony that after Elder’s file went missing, Maketa and Presley sought to recreate it using elements of the Claspell file.

Kirby, who said she used to spend Friday nights at the Maketa household, also testified that she overheard a phone call in which Maketa threatened to yank a jail contractor’s $5 million-a-year contract unless they fired an employee named Wendy Habert.

Habert led all three of Maketa’s successful campaigns for sheriff, but she earned Maketa’s wrath partly because she refused to help Presley mount a run to succeed him as sheriff, Kirby said.

“He was extremely angered and betrayed that she was giving her support to Elder,” Kirby said. “Loyalty was very important to Sheriff Maketa.”

At the conclusion of the prosecution’s case, 4th Judicial District Judge Larry E. Schwartz denied a motion by the defense to dismiss charges for lack of evidence.

The defense began its case by presenting testimony suggesting Habert was fired for cause, an attempt to undercut extortion charges alleging that Maketa targeted her because of a feud over the election and a sexual harassment complaint she lodged against a supervisor.

Maketa’s attorneys also called former sheriff’s Bureau Chief Al Harmon, who told jurors that he had serious concerns over policy violations by three deputies allegedly targeted by Maketa. All were sanctioned for breaking the rules, he said, not for political reasons.

Testimony resumes at 8:30 a.m., Monday, a day on which Maketa is expected to say if he will take the stand in his defense.


maketa-2.jpg

July 6, 20172min210

Lance Benzel is providing live updates from the sixth day of the Terry Maketa trial. Check the Twitter feed (at right for desktop users, below on mobile) for latest.

Recap of Tuesday’s testimony:

Ex-El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa wanted to knock a sheriff’s candidate out of the race when he drew attention to a missing disciplinary file, a key witness testified on Wednesday.

“(Maketa) told me that if everything went the way he wanted it to go, then the media and community would see that Bill Elder was crooked and dirty, and it would knock him out of the election,” Lt. Cheryl Peck said.

The so-called Elder file again took center stage at Maketa’s corruption trial, consuming much of the third day of testimony as prosecutors highlighted claims that the term-limited sheriff sought to influence the 2014 election to pick his successor.

Claims involving the missing file led to disciplinary action against two deputies, giving rise to two counts of official misconduct against Maketa, both misdemeanors. A third count of official misconduct stems from a different feud.

The file – said to document misconduct by Elder during a previous stint as a sheriff’s deputy – was discovered missing by Peck from a locked room at the sheriff’s Internal affairs unit in April 2013.