Judge will stay on embezzlement case despite call for disqualification
Glenwood Springs Post Independent
Judge Denise Lynch has rejected a defense motion for the judge to disqualify herself in the felony embezzlement case of a Silt family.
Attorneys in the cases of Charles “Zane” Farris and his wife, Charla Farris, filed a joint motion asking Lynch to disqualify herself, after learning that Lynch’s brother, a physician in Michigan, also was the victim of a yearslong embezzlement.
In that case his office manager pleaded guilty to embezzling as much as $800,000 from Lynch’s brother.
Because the judge has a close family member who is the victim of a similar crime as those charged in the Farris cases, the defense asserted that she could not be impartial.
The Farrises, longtime employees at the 2,600-acre Bear Wallow Ranch west of Glenwood Springs, are accused of embezzling more than $1 million from the ranch from 2012 through 2016. Their two adult sons also are facing felony theft charges stemming from what prosecutors have described as a family effort.
Bear Wallow is principally owned by the CEO of Waffle House Inc.
The two parents are each facing two felony counts of theft from $100,000 to $1 million, as well as four felony counts of ID theft. The sons have been charged with felony theft between $5,000 to $20,000.
And, the law does allow for attorneys to request a substitution of a judge that is “in any way interested or prejudiced with respect to the case, the parties or counsel,” according to Lynch’s order.
“The purpose of (this section of law) is to guarantee that no person is forced to stand trial before a judge with a bent of mind,” the order says.
“There is no allegation that this court has any financial interest in her brother’s medical practice, which she does not. There is no allegation that this court suffered herself any financial loss as a result of her brother’s embezzlement, which she had not. There is no allegation that this court has made any statements to others or in court which show that she is biased or prejudiced against this particular case or embezzlement cases in general.
“In short, there has been no showing that the court is of a ‘bent mind.’ That’s because she is not.”
In district court on Thursday, both Charles and Charla Farris also were set for preliminary hearings.
Charles Farris’ defense attorney, Kathy Goudy, requested a full day for his preliminary hearing, which was scheduled for March 26. Charla Farris’ preliminary hearing was set for March 28, in order to trail her husband’s preliminary hearing.
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Embezzlement and theft are recurring themes in the Aspen area crime annals, and the District Court judge who sent Derek Johnson to prison for six years Tuesday brought up three recent cases before passing down the sentence.