Fifth deputy DA quits
A fifth deputy district attorney resigned Monday, continuing a recent flight of employees from embattled 9th Judicial District Attorney Colleen Truden’s administration.Chris Gaddis, who handled juvenile cases in Aspen, resigned Monday. He joined a swelling rank of attorneys who have left Truden’s office in recent weeks including Gail Nichols, Jeff Cheney, Martin Beeson, Gretchen Larson and legal assistant Carol Koris.Although severely short-handed, the DA’s office will have to handle its full load of criminal cases, said local attorney Sherry Caloia.”They will have to do the dockets as normal. The fact that she doesn’t have the deputies doesn’t relieve her of the responsibility,” Caloia said. Whomever Truden sends in to handle the caseload, whether it’s juvenile or criminal cases in district court, the prosecuting attorneys could ask for a continuance in cases with which they are not familiar.”There is a speedy trial requirement of six months, and I don’t believe that can be waived because the prosecutors have all quit,” Caloia added. “I think defense attorneys will take advantage of that and set their cases for trial to force her hand.” In Glenwood Springs, Assistant District Attorney Vince Felletter is the only attorney remaining with experience prosecuting cases in district or felony court. Deputy district attorneys Tony Hershey in Glenwood Springs and Billy Birchfield in Rifle cover county, or misdemeanor, court. “It’s not a good idea to send a baby attorney to do the big cases,” Caloia said.Caloia also said she was concerned about the way Truden discharged her deputies, some of whom gave a few weeks’ notice when they resigned but were escorted out of the office the day they quit.”I feel Jeff Cheney has tremendous credibility in the community, is well liked and honest and open, a war hero and a Republican,” she said. “It says a lot for the office when a guy like that walks out. For her to do that (have them escorted out) I thought was extremely uncalled-for and insulting.”Recall is on the lips of many attorneys in town, she added. “People are talking about it. … Every attorney I’ve come in contact with is talking about it, not just defense attorneys.”Caloia, who said she will run for DA if Truden is recalled, said Truden must be in office for six months before a recall can be mounted. Truden took office on Jan. 11 so a recall could begin on June 11. Although she said she would consider being a candidate, “I am so busy in my life, if someone else stepped up to the plate and I felt it was a good choice” she’d be for it. She also mentioned that Jeff Cheney has been approached as a candidate. “I think he’s willing to consider it, and I think he’d be a good choice.”Once a petition is circulated and approved a special election would be called with two ballot questions, to recall Truden and to elect a DA from one person or a slate of candidates.Coming up with enough signatures could be a challenge because the 9th Judicial District covers three counties, Garfield, Pitkin and Rio Blanco.Both Caloia and Glenwood Springs attorney Walt Brown said Truden will have a hard time filling the vacant positions.”It’s the largest number of people I’ve seen” leave the DA’s office, Brown said, in his 30-year tenure as an attorney here. “To have this many people go means something is wrong in Denmark. … If that (work) environment doesn’t improve it will be difficult to get people to work (there).”Brown also pointed out that Garfield County has had a district attorney removed from office. In 1977 then-DA Frank Tucker was convicted of using county money to pay for a medical procedure for his girlfriend, Brown said. In fact, DA law clerk and former Congressman Scott McInnis found out about the indiscretion and blew the whistle. Tucker received a sentence of 90 days in jail. The state attorney general stepped in and appointed Chuck Leitner interim DA, Brown said. Tucker now owns a funeral home in Montrose.Brown said he believes if handling cases becomes difficult for Truden’s office, the attorney general could step in with help.Contact Donna Gray: 945-8515, ext. email@example.com
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