Two 9th District prosecutors resign |

Two 9th District prosecutors resign

Pete Fowler
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” A top local prosecutor and a county court prosecutor both indicated Thursday they’re resigning.

They’ll leave the 9th Judicial District Attorney’s Office four attorneys short. A fifth attorney will also likely need to be hired to handle a new district judge in August.

Deputy District Attorney Amy Fitch, who recently won a statewide award for being a super prosecutor in a small jurisdiction, submitted a letter of resignation Wednesday.

Deputy District Attorney Kate Brewer also said she’s resigning. She prosecuted county court cases for about a year. District Attorney Martin Beeson said Brewer wanted to move back to Denver for a job in a private law firm.

Fitch worked with the local DA’s office for about 21⁄2 years after prosecuting cases in Craig, Colo. She plans to work for the DA’s office in Colorado Springs.

“I think that this just isn’t a good fit anymore,” Fitch said. “And I think there will be more opportunity for advancement.”

District Attorney Martin Beeson said, “Amy’s resignation came as somewhat of a surprise to me.”

He said he doesn’t know why Fitch resigned, but said she’s been a great prosecutor and wonderful trial attorney who’s worked very hard for the district.

Beeson said he indicated earlier in the week to Fitch that she was a front-runner for the chief deputy district attorney position. Gail Nichols held the position but is leaving to accept a new district judge position in July or August.

Fitch said Beeson indicated he wouldn’t decide who would take that position until all the other positions are filled.

“It wasn’t so much whether or not I got that position but maybe more the reason,” Fitch said. “He expressed some concern that maybe I wouldn’t have time for that as a single mom.”

But she added that wasn’t the main reason she’s leaving and she’d planned the move for a while.

She said Deputy District Attorneys Tony Hershey, Jim Leuthauser and herself are the only three still working there since Beeson took office in January 2006. Assistant

District Attorney Jeff Cheney has also worked there since Beeson took office. Fitch said about 12 attorneys have left since the two began running the office.

One filed a still-ongoing lawsuit claiming unspecified colleagues gave false information to Beeson that caused an atmosphere of suspicion and distrust. Another was terminated or asked to resign in October when a Garfield County Sheriff’s deputy was fired for allegations of dishonesty shortly after. The attorney reportedly lodged a complaint against the deputy about unwanted sexual advances. The deputy said he was fired in retaliation for turning her in for smoking marijuana.

Fitch said there will always be turnover in a county court where young attorneys often go to get experience before heading into private practice, but, “It’s more concerning when you have career prosecutors who are turning over because obviously they want to do this forever ” so that raises red flags.”

She said some turnover is obviously unavoidable and she doesn’t know if turnover going on now surpasses the historical average.

Fitch said she had about 400 cases a year here whereas in most DA’s offices a felony prosecutor gets between 150 and 200 a year.

“That makes it a real problem,” she said. “Everybody’s been having to chip in and do extra to fill in where we are short staffed.”

Defense attorney Ted Hess said, “This kind of turnover should be dismaying, I think, to the community and to the police.”

He said it “absolutely” suggests management problems.

“Amy is a strong, experienced, professional prosecutor and she will be missed,” said Greg Greer, a longtime former public defender who’s opened up a private criminal defense practice. He said it will be very challenging to bring in someone of Fitch’s experience.

Walter Brown, an attorney who’s practiced law in the area for over 30 years, said Fitch’s resignation is “a huge loss for the entire community.”

He said it will be difficult to replace someone of Fitch’s high caliber in a DA’s office with four or five unfilled attorney positions and an administration that has “very little” trial experience.

Beeson said he’s already been interviewing new job candidates. The rest of the staff will have to put in a little more elbow grease to carry the caseload in the interim, he said, but the resignations won’t cause the cases to suffer. He said he’s disappointed to see Fitch and Brewer go, but it’s an opportunity to invest in new talent that could invigorate the office.

“We’ll move on and not miss a beat,” he said.

Beeson successfully lobbied counties for pay raises for the attorneys last year. He has said more raises will probably be necessary to staff the relatively low paying government jobs in an expensive area.