Police censured Magnuson in the past
October 31, 2006
The Aspen Police Department reprimanded sheriff’s candidate Rick Magnuson for two art projects in 2002, then suspended and placed him on probation after a separate incident a month later. The department put Magnuson, Aspen’s community safety officer, on probation after he ran a driver’s license check for a girl he was dating, saw a warrant for her arrest and provided her with a copy of the police record. The printout turned up during a search of her apartment when police arrested her five days later. “I’m human, and I make mistakes,” Magnuson said. “These are mistakes I accept and have learned from.”Pitkin County Sheriff Bob Braudis said he had heard rumors about disciplinary actions against Magnuson but had no comment.After the controversy surrounding his desert video, “Hole,” Magnuson told The Aspen Times the Aspen Police Department had never placed him on probation.
“I guess I’m changing [that answer] to yes,” Magnuson said. In late 2002, Assistant Chief Glenn Schaffer reprimanded Magnuson after receiving calls from the Vail Police Department and a New Jersey counterterrorism unit about two separate art projects. Magnuson was told he might get in more trouble if he continued, and “His action[s] are starting to bring the department into public discredit…”On Oct. 2, 2002, Aspen Police Chief Loren Ryerson received a complaint from the Vail police chief about Magnuson driving a rented truck repeatedly through a roundabout in Vail and “refusing an officer’s request that he quit,” according to the police file. “It’s not against the law,” Magnuson said in the defense the art project. “That was overbearing government. I didn’t do anything wrong.”In the second art project, the Aspen Police received a call from the Counter Terrorism Unit of Union County, N.J., on Dec. 3, 2002. According to police records, the unit spent significant time, effort and money on investigation and lab work regarding a letter addressed to Osama bin Laden it received. Magnuson said he sent out 60 letters, half to bin Laden and half to the president, all with fictional addresses. Inside were newspaper clippings about terrorism.
“It was about how the government distracts with fear,” Magnuson said. “Art should question our culture.”In the incident involving his girlfriend’s warrant, the department suspended Magnuson without pay for one day and placed him on sixth months’ probation for the first half of 2003. The department cited the fact that Magnuson violated policy about dissemination of criminal history and may have been an accessory to crime – a possible felony. “I don’t think for a minute he was trying to thwart justice,” Ryerson said, explaining why there was no criminal charge.Ryerson said the police department regularly calls people who have warrants and asks them to come in and take care of them. So while Ryerson said it was clear Magnuson wasn’t giving the warrant to his girlfriend so she could leave the country or get away from the law, it was still a clear violation of policy.”He should have known he couldn’t give her that slip of paper,” Ryerson said.”The printouts provided to this person by Rick clearly state that she is a ‘Wanted Person,’ ” said the written probation notice in Magnuson’s personnel file.
Magnuson provided the two documents relating to his past misconduct to The Aspen Times after he discovered the Aspen Daily News had acquired them through a Colorado Open Records request. Magnuson said he was not talking to the Aspen Daily News until after the election because he feels that newspaper is biased. He brought the records to The Aspen Times hoping for a more balanced story. Ryerson stood up for Magnuson in the past when he told the News, “I’m not an art critic. But what he has done has never affected his performance or his duties.”On Tuesday, Ryerson stood behind his comments about Magnuson’s work as a community safety officer. “Rick has had very good evaluations and has been a very good employee except for these two issues,” Ryerson said. “We employ humans, and humans are fallible.”Joel Stonington’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org