Lawyers at odds in ‘douche bag’ case
ASPEN – After presiding over a heated hearing in Pitkin County Court last week pitting an Aspen defense lawyer against a deputy district attorney, a judge will decide whether a special prosecutor is needed in the case of Daniel Fordham, who was arrested nearly 14 months ago after calling a police officer a “douche bag.”
Pitkin County Judge Erin Fernandez-Ely, at a hearing Wednesday, called on both defense attorney Lauren Maytin and prosecutor Richard Nedlin to undergo mediation in order to resolve the case. Each side claims they are unable to work with each other in person, and they can only communicate with e-mails.
“My belief is a settlement conference could do wonders,” the judge said. “The acts that were committed by the defendant are no longer at issue.”
The argument over a special prosecutor has sidelined the actual allegations against Fordham, 40, of Aspen. That was not lost on the judge.
“Saying ‘douche bag’ is a stupid thing, isn’t it?” Fernandez-Ely told Fordham.
Fordham agreed, saying he’s ready to put the case behind him.
But first, the judge must rule on whether Nedlin can stay on the case or if a special prosecutor outside of the 9th Judicial District will be required. She’ll make her ruling at the next hearing, scheduled April 7.
The case stems 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 was handcuffed and taken to jail. Police charged him and the case has been pending ever since.
While the judge wants Maytin and Nedlin to hold private mediation sessions with the goal of resolving the case, Assistant District Attorney Arnold Mordkin said the DA’s office won’t do that. Such a hearing would compromise his office’s ability to prosecute the matter and would be unprecedented, he said. Maytin said she is open to the idea.
Maytin claims that Nedlin reneged on a plea agreement that called for dropping the disorderly conduct charge. Nedlin did that, actually agreeing with Maytin’s motion, filed last July, that contended the term “douche bag” was protected by free speech and Fordham should not be charged with disorderly conduct.
But in August – one month after Maytin’s “Constitutionality of a Douche Bag” motion – Nedlin replaced the disorderly conduct charge with one count of obstruction of a police officer. Maytin claims Nedlin breached the deal, which is why she wants a special prosecutor.
At Wednesday’s hearing, Maytin accused Nedlin of lying and backing out of the plea agreement. Maytin suggested that Nedlin has a financial interest in the case, because if he loses it his job is threatened. She also claimed that if Nedlin is found to be lying about the case, he faces disbarment.
“The more the deputy district attorney wants to stay on the case, the more he wants to control its outcome,” Maytin told the judge.
Applying that logic, Nedlin countered that would mean that every case he loses could put his job at stake.
“To say that the prosecution has a financial interest because they want to protect their jobs is pretty ludicrous,” Nedlin said.
Later, Nedlin testified that Maytin is difficult to work with; they once negotiated over cases in person, now it’s solely through e-mails because of the icy relationship.
“She has cursed me, throwing things off my desk at me and acted very unprofessionally and made me feel uncomfortable,” Nedlin testified.
“I would love to know when I threw something off your desk,” Maytin replied. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Nedlin, however, said when he turned down the plea deal in the Fordham case, Maytin said: “You have no f—ing heart.”
“Of all the persons I’ve dealt with, I’ve never dealt with someone like Mrs. Maytin. The attacks on me are personal. We cannot agree to disagree.”
Countered Maytin: “I don’t throw things. I don’t get your in your face. I don’t know who you’re describing.”
The judge said she believed Nedlin’s testimony that Maytin can be difficult.
“To his credit I think he’s truthful when he says Mrs. Maytin is the one person he can’t get along with,” the judge said.
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