Phony police letter an inside job?
November 16, 2006
Aspen and Pitkin County authorities said Thursday that it was likely a member of the town’s police force who wrote or contributed to an inflammatory letter to The Aspen Times regarding Deputy Joe DiSalvo.
Someone sent the letter, postmarked in Glenwood Springs, under what appears to be a fictitious name.
“Having read the letter, I can certainly say the letter was written by someone in law enforcement or by someone who shouldn’t have had the information,” said Pitkin County Detective Ron Ryan. “It’s disappointing that [the letter writer] saw this as a way of attacking Joe or the Sheriff’s Office.”
Two members of the Aspen Police Department agreed with Ryan’s assessment, but asked to remain anonymous.
Aspen Police Chief Loren Ryerson, who read the letter Tuesday, called for an independent investigation to look into what happened during the events it described. The letter charged DiSalvo with inappropriate behavior and criminal conduct during a heated incident Nov. 10 at the police station with a mother and her teenage boys.
The mother, however, has since debunked the letter’s allegations of harassment and sexual harassment against DiSalvo. And though there was a scuffle between the teens and some officers, several sources have said DiSalvo was not among them.
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Still, certain elements of the letter are specific enough that officers from both departments said someone with first- or secondhand knowledge of the incident must have written it. No one aside from the officers, the mother and the two children would have had known what happened.
The incident took place when officers brought the two kids, who had made prank phone calls, into the police station, the mother said.
She said the teens got unruly, so DiSalvo and a other officers had to calm them down. During the confrontation, DiSalvo raised his voice inappropriately, but more than made up for it by apologizing and working to form a relationship with the family, the mother said.
“The kids left with respect because Joe apologized,” she said. “My children were in trouble that day, and Joe helped out. We don’t have anything bad to say about Joe.”
DiSalvo had remained silent on the matter earlier this week but said Thursday the letter was a fabrication.
“That letter’s a phony,” he told The Aspen Times. “That person does not exist.”
Aspen police and sheriff ‘s deputies voiced concerns Thursday about the apparent law enforcement source of the letter, saying it’s an especially ugly example of the rift that has emerged between the two departments and grown wider since the drug raids at two Aspen restaurants nearly a year ago.
“Shouldn’t they say, ‘This is who I am, and this is why Joe’s actions are wrong?'” Ryan asked rhetorically. “It concerns me that part of why they’re hiding behind the pseudonym is because of who they are or how they got information about this case.”
Despite the strong doubts about the letter, Ryerson did not back down Thursday from his call for an investigation.
“I stand by what I said,” Ryerson said. “I’m not going to talk about it further. It’s all in the Sheriff’s Office hands.”
Sheriff Bob Braudis was not available for comment Thursday
Joel Stonington’s e- mail address is email@example.com
The Aspen Times, Aspen, Colo.