ASPEN - video that sheriff's candidate Rick Magnuson made more than a year ago - and that GrassRoots Television has shown 27 times - has created controversy only a few weeks before Election Day.Magnuson admitted the video shows him masturbating. The shot, however, is from far away and Magnuson says the piece was a legitimate mode of self-expression.Magnuson, the Aspen Police Department's community safety officer, is challenging 20-year incumbent Bob Braudis for the office of Pitkin County sheriff.The 12-minute movie shows Magnuson digging a hole in the Mojave Desert on his 40th birthday. When he strikes water, the shot switches to about 20 yards away, with Magnuson's back to the viewer as he faces the hole and masturbates into it.Magnuson said he doesn't understand why the film has become an issue in the campaign and claims Aspen Daily News editor Rick Carroll made the video in order to hurt his chances for sheriff."I talked to Rick Carroll last night, and he told me his paper is pro-Braudis," Magnuson said, after reading Thursday's article in the Aspen Daily News. "That's not objective journalism - the way he went into graphic description of the piece, when, if you actually look at it, it's very innocuous."Carroll, however, defended the choice to print the article, saying The Daily News would have written about the film whether Braudis made it or Magnuson made it."A newspaper story has created an image in everyone's mind that actually has nothing to do with the real movie," said GrassRoots executive director John Masters. "It's having a bigger effect on people who haven't seen it than on people who have."Braudis has refused to comment on the video. Numerous voters, however, felt the video would likely hurt Magnuson's chances."After the article in The Daily News, it's like, 'Who is this guy?'" said a longtime Aspen resident who didn't want to be named. "Aspen is very accepting, but that's pretty strange."Early in the race, Magnuson slammed Braudis for not being upfront about entering an alcohol treatment clinic, saying it made Braudis unfit to be a role model. And though Magnuson has said he wanted to stay away from the issue of art in the race, when pressed, he stood behind the art he has created."In life, everyone will have problems and issues," Magnuson said. "The healthiest, most therapeutic way to deal with issues is through art. It's much more healthy than sedating yourself. I would encourage everyone to use art in their lives."Masters noted that the video has become much more successful as art after the newspaper article."He could have funded his whole campaign on the requests today," Masters said of the requests for the video from Fox in Denver and other media outlets, mentioning stock video generally runs at a price of $37 per second. "Something like this is worth thousands. But the thing is, there's nothing there. As soon as they saw it they'd feel like they were taken."
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