Douglas Bruce once asked a group of his peers to forgive him for his sins of past bad behavior: "God isn't finished with me yet."
Let's hope God will now provide patience and guidance to the probation officers whose job it will be to spend the next six years "rehabilitating" this convicted tax cheat, who was found guilty by a jury of his peers of ripping off you and me and every upstanding citizen of Colorado.
This week, even as she handed Bruce a sentence of six years probation and six months in jail, Denver District Judge Anne Mansfield expressed serious doubt that "rehabilitation" can be done.
On Friday morning at 8:30 sharp, Bruce — the landlord, former county commissioner, former state legislator, anti-tax activist and author of the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights — must report to the Denver County Jail, his home for the next 180 days.
And for six years, Bruce must report his every financial transaction to his "rehabilitators" in the probation department, who will scrutinize his finances and make sure he pays his taxes, just like the rest of us.
At the Monday sentencing, First Assistant Attorney General Robert Shapiro described how Bruce laundered money through his now-defunct Active Citizens Together organization. It was, he said, a "well-oiled machine."
It was, Shapiro said, the handiwork of a selfish narcissist, a guy who merely wanted "to satisfy his greed."
"He cheated the state, and in turn cheated the citizens of this state," Shapiro said, noting the Internal Revenue Service has requested the Bruce files so the feds can launch their own investigation.
Judge Mansfield said the court took into consideration Bruce's age — 62 — a largely clean criminal record, and that he's not a substance abuser. Still, she expressed grave doubts about the defendant sitting before her, a man with "no remorse or regret for his actions," with "no regard for the rule of law."
"[The] defendant has no recognition that his behavior was illegal and was found illegal by a jury," Mansfield said. "He is never wrong; everyone else is wrong.
"The risk is quite high that he will repeat."
The judge rattled off a list of 20 rules that Bruce must follow as terms of his probation. He must disclose all his investments, income, debt, contracts, credit, checking and savings account information. He must report all real estate he owns anywhere in the world. He must report all assets, including stocks, bonds and other funds. He must detail all his income, expenses, business subcontracts and liens, and provide income tax statements for the past three years. He has to turn over his computer records, hard drive, and pay for documentation of his financial affairs. He has to pay an estimated $28,225 in restitution. And he'll have to pay for counseling.
The jail time, Mansfield said, is part of his "rehabilitation" — and is "paramount to being successful." He has until this Friday, she ruled, to get his affairs in order.
A little more than an hour earlier, Bruce had arrived at the Denver criminal courthouse, a giant, bright red Slurpee in hand. The man who once embraced the label of anti-government "terrorist" moved easily through the metal detector. He remained impressively on script.
"I will appeal. I am innocent. I shall prevail," Bruce intoned to a swarm of reporters. When asked for more, Bruce repeated the mantra. He didn't kick anyone — not even when a TV cameraman ran in front of Bruce to videotape him walking into the courthouse.
Bruce represented himself at his December trial — an excruciating disaster for himself and anyone who was there for even part of the proceedings. For his sentencing this week, Bruce hired famed defense attorney David Lane, who actually complained to the judge that no one from the Department of Revenue had ever tried to sit down with Bruce and "rationally" discuss his money-laundering scheme.
And Lane managed to get in a bit of courtroom color, noting that to some, Bruce is a "hero" but to others he's "satanic."
Bruce managed to keep his mouth shut during the hearing. But, as a guy who was once described as having no impulse control, Bruce couldn't be expected to behave himself forever.
After the sentencing, outside the courtroom, to the assembled media horde, Bruce finally delivered. "I did nothing wrong," he insisted.
He made a bizarre comparison between Judge Mansfield and the evil and bloodthirsty Queen of Hearts in Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking-Glass.
He declared himself a political prisoner, apparently joining the company of Aung San Suu Kyi, Nelson Mandela, Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.
"They will be able to have my body, but they will not have my soul," Bruce said.
Odds of rehabilitation? Less than zero.
Cara DeGette is the former executive editor of the Independent. Now living in Denver, she is currently the president of the Society of Professional Journalists/Colorado Pro Chapter.
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