Truden becomes first DA in state to be recalled
Garfield County voters helped make Colorado history in December, in what was a proud day for organizers of a recall campaign, but not for its target.Ninth Judicial District Attorney Colleen Truden became the first DA in Colorado to be recalled. A resounding 80 percent of voters supported her ouster from office. Martin Beeson was elected to replace her.What became the biggest local story of the year started not long after Truden took office in January, following the departure of her predecessor, Mac Myers, due to term limits. A succession of deputy DAs began leaving her office, complaining about her management style. Though they resigned, some said they were asked to leave immediately and were escorted out of office.Truden’s troubles deepened when it came to light that she had paid her husband, Fred, $6,000 for consulting work. Her critics accused her of having lied about the matter. She also later faced allegations of having overspent her budget. She denied both assertions.
Attorney Sherry Caloia began the recall effort. Jeff Cheney and Beeson, who both worked for Myers and then quit after Truden took office, joined in the campaign, which became heated over the summer. In August, at Silt Heyday, recall volunteers said Fred Truden harassed them. A judge later dismissed a temporary restraining order against him in the matter.The recall effort gained steam when two of Truden’s own hires, Tony Hershey and Katie Steers, quit. Steers then filed ethics complaints against Truden and some of her staff; the state later dismissed some of them.Recall organizers amassed more than 9,000 signatures, of which 6,626 were validated – well over the 5,455 required to force an election. Then a second signature push began, as Beeson and former prosecutor Chip McCrory sought to get on the ballot. Beeson succeeded; McCrory fell short and became a write-in candidate instead.As the recall push proceeded, Truden defended her record, saying felony convictions were up since she took office, and relations with local police had improved.
Meanwhile, a high-profile murder case became another controversial issue for Truden. Eric Stoneman, 14, shot and killed 9-year-old Taylor DeMarco in Battlement Mesa. Truden charged Stoneman with first-degree murder as an adult, raising the possibility of him being sentenced to prison for life. Some child advocates questioned the decision and suggested it was politically motivated because of the recall effort.After the recall vote on Dec. 13, Truden’s office reached a plea bargain that will put Stoneman behind bars for 10 years. But that only drew criticism from DeMarco’s father, who said it was too lenient.Although the election is over, the story of Truden’s era is still being written as the year comes to a close. She and Beeson had yet to talk a full two weeks after the election, adding to questions about how smooth a transition can occur in such a short time.
Beeson is scheduled to take office Jan. 6, and Truden remains in office until then. He hasn’t announced who will work for him, and current Assistant District Attorney Vince Felletter has said that has made it difficult for deputy DAs to know what to do about their cases in the meantime.Meanwhile, there also is the question of whether Truden is leaving behind a backlog of cases for Beeson to have to catch up on. She has said there is no such backlog.After the election, she also said she did nothing wrong in office, and blamed the media and a “smear campaign” by her critics for her recall.She declined to talk about her plans for the future.
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