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GOP lawyer jumps the gun 

Controversial Trailhead ad still under investigation

Fellow Republicans have targeted 4th Judicial District Attorney John Newsome over his investigation into a potential violation of a Colorado law that criminalizes false statements in political ads.

Last week, Scott Gessler, a Denver-based attorney and Republican activist, sent an e-mail to supporters seeking donations for legal fees for his "good friend" Alan Philp, the director of the 527 Trailhead Group, which supports Republican office-seekers. The contributions, Gessler indicated, would be used to pay for Philp's legal fees over what he claimed was an imminent criminal charge in El Paso County.

However, any charges that may be filed against Philp, or anyone else affiliated with Trailhead, are premature, Newsome says.

"It is a pending investigation; we're not done investigating this, and we're working very hard to finish it," he explains. "I have not made any final decision; I am trying to do my job, and I'm being attacked by all sides which means I'm doing my job."

Specifically, Newsome is investigating a complaint into radio ads and glossy mailers that Trailhead sent in August targeting Democratic state Senate candidate John Morse, who is challenging incumbent Ed Jones. The ads and mailers misstated the outcome of a case involving a man arrested after a confrontation with police that occurred while Morse was chief of police in Fountain. The man was convicted of felony menacing and sentenced to three years in prison; Trailhead claimed that due to mishandling of police reports, the suspect received a plea bargain for one misdemeanor.

The ads aired on several Colorado Springs radio stations, including the Eagle KYZX-FM 103.9 and KVOR-AM 1460, and glossy mailers were sent to potential voters in Senate District 11, which encompasses much of south, east, southwestern and central Colorado Springs.

In his e-mail, obtained by the Independent, Gessler, himself the president of a 527 group that has produced ads attacking Democrats, complained that Philp was to be "criminally charged for political speech." In addition, Gessler asserted that Newsome, a first-term district attorney and a conservative Republican, was giving some sort of "special courtesy" to the Democrat because of Morse's background in law enforcement. The law, Gessler opined, is "unconstitutional."

"I firmly believe this is a hack job," he wrote. "Not a Republican-Democrat thing, but law enforcement professionals giving one another special "courtesy."

To which Newsome responds: "It shows a complete lack of understanding as to what my job is and what my oath of office is. I put my hand on the Bible and said I would enforce the law.

"I don't write the laws; I enforce the laws as written by the Legislature," Newsome says, adding, "My job is not to look at the election calendars."

Morse, meanwhile, expresses astonishment at claims of special treatment.

"The relationship between John Newsome and I has been greatly exaggerated to benefit the Republicans," he says. "As far as this "political speech' thing, well, they lied [in their ads]. Maybe for the Republican Party it's political speech, but for the rest of us, sorry, it's bold-faced lies and it's against the law."

The statute, adopted last year, specifies it is a criminal act to "recklessly make, publish, broadcast, or circulate or cause to be made, published, broadcasted or circulated in any letter, circular, advertisement, or poster or any other communication any false statement." It was approved by Gov. Bill Owens who helped found the Trailhead Group.

degette@csindy.com

  • Controversial Trailhead ad still under investigation

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