Evidence issues hang over bomb-threat case
A Pitkin County prosecutor is defending his office’s competence in the wake of a public defender’s allegations that he and his employees routinely have failed to provide it evidence in a timely manner.
Deputy District Attorney Arnold Mordkin, on April 26, filed a brief in opposition to public defender Tina Fang’s motion to dismiss felony charges of a bomb threat and assault on a police officer, based on the prosecution’s alleged failure to provide evidence in a timely manner.
Fang’s motion also offers critical remarks about prosecutor Arnold Mordkin, who runs the Pitkin County branch of the 9th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, claiming that over the years he has demonstrated a pattern of miscues over discovery issues. Fang’s motion also asks that a judge sanction Mordkin for his mistakes.
Filed April 13 in Pitkin County District Court, Fang’s motion concerns the case of 30-year-old Asa Robinson of Glenwood Springs. Aspen police arrested Robinson Nov. 22 on suspicion of calling in a bomb threat to Belly Up, after tracing the call to his cell-phone number.
The Aspen nightclub was forced to evacuate its sold-out crowd because of threat. The crowd was let back in after police found no signs of a bomb at the venue.
Police detained and arrested Robinson, while he was in line to get into the club, resulting in a scuffle between the suspect and an officer.
Fang’s motion argues that some of the evidence Mordkin’s office failed to turn over to the public defender is exculpatory. Robinson, who is in Pitkin County Jail on $25,000 bond, has pleaded not guilty to the charges. A trial is set for Aug. 21.
Mordkin’s court filing argues the charges should stick, despite Fang’s contentions that Robinson is not getting a fair shake because of discovery issues with the case.
Mordkin’s filing admits his office made mistakes in the Robinson case and other cases, mainly with turning over evidence, such as video of a police interrogation of Robinson. However, Mordkin contends his office has taken steps to rectify the problems. And, as a general rule, Mordkin’s office does not have the chronic pattern of discovery missteps that Fang alleges.
“Since 2008 thru (sic) February 2012, the period of time the defense cites for the various asserted discovery violations, the Office of the District Attorney for the 9th Judicial District filed 428 felony, 106 juvenile, 985 misdemeanor, and 1,903 traffic and alcohol related driving cases in the Pitkin County combined courts, for a total of 3,422 cases,” Mordkin’s filing says. “Most, if not all of those cases involved the production of discovery materials in some form or another.
“Even assuming that there are the eight other cases where in the defense claims a discovery violation occurred, only five of them occurred in Pitkin County courts. That means that … the Office of the District Attorney has an error rate of less than .0015. Stated another way, we did it right 99.9985 percent of the time.”
Meanwhile, on April 30, Fang filed a motion in response to Mordkin’s April 26 filing. Fang suggests that Mordkin’s statistical analysis of his office’s case is misleading, noting that “there is no way (Mordkin) could accurately track the number of actual discovery violations because, sadly, sometimes the violations are never discovered.”
In closing, Fang argues that if “the court fails to properly sanction Mr. Mordkin, the violations will continue.”
Judge Gail Nichols is presiding over the case. As of Friday, she had yet to rule on the matter or set it for a hearing.
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