Douglas Bruce can’t be the first felon who ever tweaked his backstory to fit his circumstances. No doubt plenty of perps have told a prospective employer, for example, that they regret their bad choice — only to turn around and tell mom, “I was framed!”
Yet, it takes someone with Bruce’s trademark audacity — unmitigated gall, if you prefer — to change his tune quite so publicly as he did last week in 4th Judicial District Court in Colorado Springs. That’s where the inimitable political figure, legendary tormentor of public officials — and, more recently, convicted tax evader just months out of prison — was back at it jousting with his old nemesis, Colorado Springs City Hall, over a pending tax question on the spring municipal ballot.
Bruce, who authored the taxing and spending limits that the public voted into Colorado’s constitution 25 years ago, was challenging the city on technical grounds over its proposal to keep extra revenue. Perhaps unexpectedly, the tables were turned on him in the courtroom of Fourth Judicial District Judge Gregory Werner. Bruce’s credibility as well as legal standing to press his complaint in the first place were called into question; he is, after all, a convicted felon who can’t even vote.
As The Gazette’s Lance Benzel reported on Friday, Bruce, who had served time in 2012, as well, seemed anything but contrite about his brush with the justice system:
“I don’t consider that I was convicted by a lawful jury. The whole procedure was a fraud,” a defiant Bruce said in a series of testy exchanges during an emergency hearing Bruce requested to contest a TABOR notice in citywide ballots scheduled to go out in the mail March 10.
Noting that he has appealed the convictions in U.S. District Court in Denver, Bruce said he was “framed” and blamed Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers — then Colorado’s attorney general — for “maneuvering” to bring the case against him.
“The guy is an evil person,” Bruce told The Gazette during a break in the proceedings after being asked to elaborate on his claims.
The real backstory, as recapped by Benzel:
Bruce, 67, was convicted in December 2011 of tax evasion, filing a false tax return and trying to influence a public servant, all felonies. He was sentenced in 2012 to six years’ probation and two consecutive 90-day stints in Denver County Jail and ordered to report all financial transactions. When he didn’t, he later served six months of a two-year prison sentence for probation violations.
As Benzel also noted, Bruce’s vintage performance last week represented an about-face from the humility he displayed last summer when petitioning authorities for early release from prison.
…Bruce contested his guilt, but suggested he was a changed man.
“I’m accepting responsibility,” Bruce told Alfredo Pena, the member of the Colorado State Board of Parole who heard his request for early release in July. “I regret that this whole situation occurred. It will never happen again.”
He was granted parole in September.
You think Bruce was putting on an act for the parole board? Say it ain’t so. Well, not our place to judge, at any rate. What is fairly safe to conclude, though, is that not even time behind bars will chasten Douglas Bruce enough to keep him out of the political fray.
Incidentally, his challenge of the city’s ballot issue flopped. Rest assured, though, the experience only whet his appetite for more.