Former Mesa County Commissioner Janet Rowland wants to take down one of the judges who released a convicted serial child molester from his 324-year prison sentence in February. Reports the Daily Sentinel in Grand Junction, Rowland — who now leads the county’s program advocating for abused and neglected children — is spearheading a campaign to oust Colorado Court of Appeals Judge Craig Welling when he faces a judicial retention election in 2020.
Welling is one of three judges on the panel who overturned Michael McFadden’s 2015 conviction by a Mesa County jury for molesting several young boys and girls. The appellate judges found that delays surrounding questions that McFadden’s lawyers had wanted to submit on the questionnaire for the jurors was a violation of his right to a speedy trial.
Rowland, long prominent in West Slope Republican politics, may be familiar to Coloradans elsewhere in the state as the unsuccessful Republican nominee for lieutenant governor in 2006. That was the year the GOP’s former U.S. Rep. Bob Beauprez lost the governor’s race to Democrat Bill Ritter. Rowland, who early in her career was a child-protection caseworker for the Mesa County Department of Human Services, is now executive director of CASA/Court Appointed Special Advocates of Mesa County.
Rowland’s campaign to persuade voters statewide to dump Welling is called Justice for All Colorado and is raising funds for the endeavor. Colorado judges are not elected directly to the bench but instead are appointed by the governor from lists of finalists recommended by the state’s judicial nominating commissions. Once appointed, judges — even the seven justices of the Colorado Supreme Court — subsequently face voters in retention elections. Rarely is anyone removed from the bench.
Why just Welling rather than either or both of the other two Court of Appeals judges who sided with him in the McFadden appeal? Rowland told the Daily Sentinel’s Erin McIntyre that one of the other judges has since retired, and the other isn’t up for a retention election until 2024.
McIntyre offers details of Justice for All Colorado’s planned campaign:
The group is in the beginning stages of raising money and registering as a political-action committee to campaign against Welling, and has set up a website at www.justiceforallcolorado.org.The campaign will include videos, social media posts and advertising across media platforms, Rowland indicated. The group’s current goal is to raise $300,000 to $500,000 and the group is looking for campaign leaders in all 64 Colorado counties, since voters across the state can vote to retain Welling.
‘We’re not here to debate the legal aspects of this case,’ she told the group, stating that they were trying the case in the court of public opinion. ‘We’re trying this in the court of common decency.’
The ruling by the Court of Appeals has hit a nerve in Mesa County, and efforts are afoot by law enforcement there to put McFadden back behind bars, McIntyre reports:
Rowland said Mesa County District Attorney Dan Rubinstein is working to determine whether charges in an older case could be filed against McFadden.
When McFadden was initially released from prison, it was believed he didn’t have to register as a sex offender. However, a previous conviction of sexual assault on a child in 1990, involving an 8-year-old boy who had been sodomized, was used to require his registration. He had been released from prison on parole in 2005. The crimes on the six children in the more recent case happened not long after that, between 2008 and 2012, and he was arrested in 2013.