Public defender: DA actions `misconduct’

by Greg Masse
Post Independent Staff

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – “Misconduct” is how a local defense attorney labeled the actions of the Ninth District Attorney’s office in its handling of a myriad of cases in which it failed to provide information about a Silt police officer’s criminal past.

That defense attorney, Garfield County public defender Greg Greer, also said it could be months before the full effect of the situation is felt.

Greer was reacting Wednesday to the recent discovery that up to 190 court cases involving former Silt police officer Michael Williams might have been tainted because district attorney Mac Myers’ office either forgot to provide, or withheld, a notice of potential impeachment information against Williams.

The notice was supposed to be provided to defense attorneys each time Williams was involved in a case. It would have allowed defense attorneys to find out through the discovery process that Williams was charged in 1997 with attempting to influence a public servant and tampering with evidence, both felonies, when he was a police officer in Frisco.

Williams accepted a plea bargain and was convicted on a misdemeanor charge of first-degree official misconduct.

The charges were filed after Williams was accused of falsifying an alcohol breath test by administering the test twice, then throwing away the lower results of the first test.

Greer said excluding this information from defense attorneys for the past 3 1/2 years is extremely serious.

“It’s misconduct,” Greer said of Myers’ office. “This is a phenomenal situation. Not only have I not seen this, there’s not a whole lot of examples in this country of something this serious.”

Myers said he’s largely finished with an in-house investigation of his office on the matter and said there still could be disciplinary action against prosecutor Trisha Lacey.

“It came out that Trish had this material for 3 1/2 years,” he said.

He didn’t elaborate on what type of disciplinary action could be taken.

Myers said he believes nobody in his office, including Lacey, deliberately held back the information.

Thus far, Greer said, he hasn’t heard of any call by fellow defense attorneys for an outside investigation into the DA’s practices.

“I don’t think there’s any coordinated action going on,” he said.

But he didn’t rule out anything happening in the future.

If action were to be taken against Myers’ office, it would happen through the District Attorney Disciplinary Council.

As of Wednesday, no formal complaints have been filed with the council, Supreme Court regulation counsel John Gleason said.

Gleason said there are normally 150 to 180 complaints filed against district attorneys throughout the state each year, but that the majority of them are dismissed.

Greer said defense attorneys around Garfield County are reeling from the situation.

“I think they’re astounded, they’re shocked and they’re going to have to evaluate if they can practice law here,” he said.

He said defense attorneys’ jobs are founded on getting as much information as is available from the district attorney’s office, and in at least some of the 190 convictions where Williams was somehow involved, this protocol was not followed. This, in turn, affected three trials and Greer said in many cases it likely made a difference in the advice that was given by defense attorneys to their clients on how to plead in a case.

“It rocks you backwards,” he said. “The fallout – it may take weeks or even months to feel the effect of this violation. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Defense attorney Jamie Roth, who also works for the Garfield County Public Defender’s Office, said the main goal for everyone involved should be setting things right for defendants.

“The bottom line is, what we worry about is our clients and people who didn’t have attorneys and we need to find a remedy for this,” she said.

Greer said that before the situation with the DA’s office, if a client asked how Greer knew he had all the evidence available, he’d tell them he knew because the DA is required to present all evidence.

“Now I’m not sure what we’re going to say,” he said.

Myers said in the end, the blame lies with him.

“I’m obviously responsible for that – to make sure everyone gets those disclosures,” he said. “Certainly there has been a lot of criticism of us in the press by defense attorneys. There was a breakdown in the procedures here and I was responsible for it. We’re doing everything we can do to correct what was done.”

Contact Greg Masse: 945-8515, ext. 511

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