Ex-Aspen cop’s attorney seeks special prosecutor in sex crimes case
ASPEN – Citing a conflict of interest and the potential for a tainted jury, the attorney for an ex-Aspen police officer accused of two felony sex crimes filed a motion Monday seeking a special prosecutor.
The motion, made public Wednesday, argues that defendant Joe Holman risks having an unfair trial if the 9th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, which comprises Garfield, Pitkin and Rio Blanco counties, handles the prosecution.
Holman, 38, was arrested in June on suspicion of hiding a video camera in a shower stall used by a teenage girl who lived at his house. The incident allegedly happened April 29. After being placed on administrative leave May 29, Holman resigned June 24, the day he was arrested.
Holman has yet to be charged. Court records show authorities plan to file two counts of attempted sexual exploitation of a child, one count of tampering with evidence, child abuse and attempted criminal invasion of privacy. The charges are pending until a judge decides whether to appoint a special prosecutor or allow the 9th Judicial District Attorney’s Office handle the case.
In a five-page motion, Holman’s attorney, Glenwood Springs-based Lawson Wills, argues that the methods used in the initial investigation and current prosecution of Holman support an outside prosecutor to handle the case.
The motion notes that in 2008, when the same accuser made similar allegations against Holman, the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office and the 9th Judicial District Attorney’s Office deferred the investigation to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation. The 2008 allegations were “ultimately deemed unfounded,” the motion says.
And, in the current case against Holman, Chief Deputy District Attorney Arnold Mordkin opted not to prosecute Holman. Mordkin handles felony cases in Pitkin County.
“Mr. Mordkin’s request to not participate in the Holman matter operates as an office-wide acknowledgment of a conflict of interest,” the motion says.
And because the Aspen’s district attorney’s office is located in the same building – the Pitkin County Courthouse – that is used by the sheriff’s office and police department, a “close working relationship” exists among the agencies that could impact the prosecution of Holman, the motion argues.
“Certainly a possibility of favoritism or bias exists,” the motion says. “Certainly a possibility of an overzealous prosecution exists. Whether that juror considers the prosecution to be under-pursued or over-pursued, Joe Holman has a right to a jury free of taint.”
The motion also contends that the decision by the 9th Judicial District Attorney’s Office to not prosecute former Aspen police officer Jim Crowley for driving while intoxicated shows “that same logic should rightfully apply here.”
Crowley resigned from the Aspen Police Department in June 2008 after allegedly driving a patrol vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. He was charged with DUI. The case is pending.
“There exists no meaningful distinction between the criminal prosecution involving James Crowley and the criminal prosecution of [Holman] which could support such a radical change in the handling of these cases,” the motion says. “The Office of the District Attorney should not be permitted to select and choose which identically situated individuals they [wish] to prosecute and that those which need outside prosecutors.”
The motion continues: “There is little doubt that potential jurors will question and be puzzled why this prosecutor’s office removed themselves from one case and not another. This will tend to signal to jurors that the Holman case is more important or has some added significance that is simply not present.”
District Attorney Martin Beeson could not be reached for comment late Wednesday.
Holman’s next court appearance is scheduled for Sept. 21.
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