‘Douche bag’ case sparks war of words in Aspen
Ryan Summerlin February 4, 2011
ASPEN – It’s been more than a year since Daniel Fordham got in trouble for an episode in which he called an Aspen police officer a “douche bag.” And those two words have sparked a war of words between the District Attorney’s Office and Fordham’s lawyer, Lauren Maytin of Aspen.
Fordham is due back in Pitkin County Court on March 8, during which time Maytin is scheduled to argue for a special prosecutor to handle a case stemming from a Jan. 23, 2010 incident in downtown Aspen.
Early that morning, Fordham was arrested outside of Rubey Park for disorderly conduct after he had an encounter with police officers who were en route to Bad Billy’s to respond to a call of some stolen coats. Police say Fordham got in their way, confronted them, yelled at them, and called officer Adam Loudon a douche bag.
Fordham, now 40, was handcuffed and taken to jail. Police charged him and the case has been pending ever since.
It’s the “douche bag” phrase that has riled up Maytin. In July she filed a six-page court brief – aptly titled “Motion to Dismiss: The Constitutionality of ‘Douche Bag.'” Maytin contended that the disorderly conduct charge should have been dropped because Fordham was protected by free speech. She cited numerous sources to back her claim – ranging from Wikipedia to the Urban Dictionary to David Letterman.
During one “Late Show” episode, Letterman “made it very clear that neither ‘douche’ nor ‘douche bag’ were vulgar terms when used correctly,” Maytin wrote, adding that the term has “made its way into mainstream society.” In fact, Maytin argued, the term “douche bag” is spoken more than such wholesome words as “baseball” and “apple pie,” among others.
Maytin goes onto to say in the motion that “this is surely not the first time the police officer had heard an offensive remark or been called a bad name. In contrast to the general public, one expects a police officer to have special training in dealing with situations that require non-criminal discipline and reprimand.”
Both Nedlin and Deputy District Attorney Arnold Mordkin said Thursday that Fordham’s calling an officer a “douche bag” wasn’t the reason he was arrested. In fact, they said they agree with Maytin that Fordham was protected by the First Amendment. It’s the other things he allegedly did -chiefly interfering with the officers’ response to a theft call – that warranted a criminal charge.
Meanwhile in August – one month after Maytin’s “douche bag” motion – Nedlin dropped the disorderly conduct charge and replaced it with one count of obstruction of a police officer.
Maytin, however, has alleged Nedlin reneged on a plea agreement that called for Fordham pleading guilty to the disorderly conduct charge in exchange for not filing another count: violating the probation he was serving for a driving while ability impaired conviction from July 2009.
In an affidavit filed Tuesday, Maytin contended that Fordham did not offer a plea in the disorderly conduct case in order to reserve his right to file a motion to dismiss the charge based on his constitutional right to call an officer a “douche bag.” By not offering a plea, Fordham hampered his right to a speedy trial because he believed a plea deal was in the works, Maytin said in the affidavit.
“[Deputy District Attorney] Nedlin failed to honor the plea agreement,” she concluded.
For his part, Nedlin said there never was a deal and Maytin is confused.
“I never said I would drop the case,” he said.
Maytin, contacted Thursday, declined comment.
Judge Erin Fernandez-Ely is presiding over the case.