Retrial for ex-Sheriff Terry Maketa begins this week

Author: Lance Benzel, The Gazette - January 23, 2018 - Updated: January 24, 2018

El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa ducks under a microphone cord as he avoids reporter’s questions on his way to speak to the Board of County Commissioners Tuesday, June 17, 2014 at Centennial Hall. (The Gazette file photo)

A retrial begins this week for former El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa on corruption allegations that left a previous panel deadlocked.

Jury selection is to begin at 9 a.m. Tuesday, with 90 prospective jurors on tap for consideration in a process that could take days. Final preparations were discussed Monday morning before 4th Judicial District Judge Larry E. Schwartz, with attorneys on both sides appearing by telephone.

The jury at Maketa’s July mistrial acquitted him of three other charges but left the bulk of the case unresolved. Maketa, 53, faces four remaining counts, including two felonies alleging extortion and conspiracy to commit extortion.

The former three-term sheriff and prominent county Republican is accused of abusing his authority to sabotage political rivals and disciplining or firing deputies who crossed him. The extortion charges are based on disputed evidence that Maketa threatened to terminate a contract of more than $5 million a year with a private jail health-care contractor unless it fired a woman who had refused to run a sheriff’s campaign for Maketa’s chosen successor, then-Undersheriff Paula Presley.

Presley, who also is charged in the case, is set for a trial in February. Charges since have been dismissed against a third defendant, former sheriff’s Cmdr. Juan “John” San Agustin.

Two weeks have been set aside for Maketa’s trial. If convicted of all counts, he would be a felon facing up to six years in prison.

The Gazette reported earlier this month that Maketa’s prior panel deadlocked 11-1 in favor of guilt on the two felonies, with the jury forewoman attributing the lack of accord to a lone holdout juror who referred to Maketa as “Terry” and told fellow panelists she didn’t believe “any” of the witnesses against him.

Among remaining issues to be decided before Maketa faces his new panel is whether prospective jurors will be informed of the mistrial. Schwartz said his preference is to notify them, but prosecutors said they don’t want the panel told and might prepare arguments on the issue for Tuesday morning. The defense did not state its position.

The judge is expected to decide that issue Tuesday morning.

Maketa’s retrial comes days after the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver struck down a civil claim against him and his former undersheriff.

Reviewing claims of retaliation by five former employees, the three-judge panel concluded Thursday that Maketa and Presley were covered by governmental immunity when they took various administrative actions against the plaintiffs, effectively laying a lawsuit to rest.

The plaintiffs were Lt. Cheryl Peck, Sgt. Robert Stone and Cmdrs. Mitchel Lincoln, Rodney Gehrett and Robert King. All of them except Stone remain in the office.

Lance Benzel, The Gazette

Lance Benzel, The Gazette