The charges against Randal D. "Randy" Ankeney are serious, some say shocking. Ankeney, a Colorado Springs attorney and El Paso County Republican power player, is facing three felonies plus a couple of misdemeanors for allegedly picking up a 13-year-old girl off the Internet, getting her drunk and stoned and then trying to coerce her into having sex with him.
Such charges could, if convicted, send the golden-haired Republican leader to jail for the rest of his life. He could be forever tagged a sex offender. He could be disbarred.
In the aftermath of Ankeney's arrest, Republican heavy-hitters -- from the governor of Colorado to El Paso County legislators and other elected party activists -- have distanced themselves from the 30-year-old elected Republican county leader and political appointee.
Just weeks ago, Ankeney, a former fellow with the El Pomar Foundation was regarded as a rising Republican comet.
A graduate of the prestigious Republican Leadership Program designed to groom future GOP leaders, Ankeney interned during law school, in the summer of 1998, at the El Paso County district attorney's office -- the same office that is now prosecuting him for his alleged crimes.
With recommendations from Bill Hybl, the CEO and president of the influential El Pomar Foundation, Ankeney attended the University of Colorado law school and briefly worked at the high-powered national law firm of Hogan & Hartson.
Last November, Gov. Owens hired him to be his Pikes Peak regional representative to his office of economic development, a $63,000 a year job.
Ankeney worked on numerous political campaigns, helping to elect several local Republican representatives to the state Legislature and local offices.
Last year, El Paso Republican leaders rewarded him for his devotion by electing him as a bonus member to represent El Paso County at the party's state Assembly. Ankeney served alongside other county bonus members that include newly appointed U.S. Attorney John Suthers, Deputy District Attorney John Newsome, state GOP Vice Chair Larry Liston, local Right to Life Chairwoman Connie Pratt and Focus on the Family executive Amy Stephens.
Until recently, he served as a county co-chair of the governor's re-election campaign for 2002.
Ankeney's loyalty to the Grand Old Party was so solid that he even named his dogs Reagan and Nixon and decorated his home office with photographs of George W. Bush.
Ankeney was being groomed for an official party nod to the state Legislature, where he would write laws and shmooze with lobbyists. Now many of his Republican pals act like they barely knew him.
"We'd meet each other from time to time at events -- he's what I'd call a casual acquaintance," said the current local GOP Chairman Chuck Broerman.
"He's not someone that I called on a periodic basis -- I've called you more than I called him," said Wayne Williams, the immediate past president of the local Republican Party who served as a bonus member alongside Ankeney. "I consider him to be a friend, but not a close friend."
Williams recalled that Ankeney had worked to get state Sen. Andy McElhany and state Rep. Bill Cadman elected to office. Cadman didn't return phone messages seeking comment. And McElhany, who hasn't had to face a Republican or Democratic opponent since he was first elected in 1994, said he doesn't know Ankeney very well.
"Randy's not in my district -- he's not one of my precinct people," McElhany said. "I'd see him at political events but I don't remember seeing him with anyone in particular, any one person."
Jim Bensberg, who works in U.S. Sen. Wayne Allard's office and is running for a seat on the El Paso County Board of Commissioners, claims he knew Ankeney through Republican political circles but, "I can't say I really knew him well and I'm glad I didn't."
The gory details
On July 31, Randy Ankeney's life changed forever. That was the day his grandmother died.
It was also the day that the Colorado Springs Police Department arrested him for sexually assaulting a child (a felony), sexual exploitation of children (a felony), contributing to the delinquency of a minor (a felony) and the misdemeanors of possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia.
If he is found guilty, the felonies alone could put him away, under Colorado's sex offence statutes, for life.
According to the police affidavit, the girl met Ankeney -- whose online name was "coloradofella" on the Internet -- and gave him her phone number. When he called, she told him she was 14 and he said he was around 25, the police allege.
"[The girl] stated during the phone conversation that he asked her about her sexual experience, what her preferences were and told her because they were so compatible that he thought they would be 'good in bed.' "
The affidavit states that Ankeney picked up the girl, who is not identified in court documents because she is a minor, just before midnight near her Fountain home. Then, the girl allegedly told him she was actually 13 years old and running away from home. Police allege that Ankeney then brought her to his house, in downtown Colorado Springs near Acacia Park, where he logged onto his computer and erased the messages that he had sent to her online.
The girl claims that she and Ankeney then watched the Comedy Central TV station for awhile and then began playing the card game 21. Ankeney told her she would either have to take a shot of alcohol or remove a piece of clothing if she lost. The girl said she lost the game several times, took off her shirt and did a shot of Butternips schnapps. In addition, the girl was drinking alcoholic lemonade and Ankeney encouraged her to smoke marijuana until, she reported, she was "stoned and drunk."
"[The girl] stated she was trying to stay awake but was having a hard time. She stated that [Ankeney] told her to take off her bra and lay down on the couch. He then told her he wanted to take some photographs of her," the affidavit alleges.
Police allege that the girl said Ankeney took two pictures of her, and she fell asleep on the couch with only her jeans on. She awoke to find Ankeney straddling her, kissing her back and neck. He turned her over and fondled her, holding her down with his weight, and the girl reported she feared he would rape her. Ankeney eventually let her up and, the police allege, apologized and told her that if she told anyone about the episode "he would ruin her life."
"He also told her he could get in trouble for her being at his house," the affidavit says.
Police allege that Ankeney then drove the girl to a Wendy's fast food restaurant, dropped her off and drove away. The girl claimed she "wandered around" for several days and eventually called a family friend and went home.
Through his lawyer, Ankeney declined to comment on the pending charges. Colorado Springs defense attorney Kevin Donovan said his client plans to plead not guilty. He would not, however, comment on the details of the case or his planned defense, citing attorney/client privilege.
"It's too early to comment -- we're still investigating the allegations," Donovan said.
Prosecutor Amy Mullaney also declined to discuss any details. "At this point I'm not at liberty to talk about what my plans for the case are," she said.
Mullaney, who is head of the crimes against children division for the 4th Judicial District Attorney's Office, said she did not work with Ankeney when he interned for the district attorney's office in the summer of 1998.
District Attorney Jeanne Smith said her office has not filed a request to bring in a special prosecutor in the case, as it does in a handful of cases every year where they determine a conflict of interest exists when prosecuting a case.
"Sharing someone's political affiliation is no reason to get off a case," said Smith, a Republican. "Does the fact that [Ankeney] served an internship [in the district attorney's office] present a conflict? We don't know -- it may -- and that's what we're taking a look at."
Ankeney, who is currently free on a $10,000 bond, is due back in court on Sept. 6.
Shocked and fooled
After his arrest, Ankeny resigned his job with the governor's office of economic development. He also resigned as co-chair of the governor's recently formed re-election campaign. And, at the request of county GOP Chairman Broerman, he tendered his resignation as a bonus member.
"It's a sad situation," said Williams, the former GOP chairman. "If Randy did indeed do the things he's accused of, he needs to pay the debt that the law requires.
"Most people had high hopes for Randy and are disappointed at what happened."
Bill Hybl -- who last week was nominated as a U.S. ambassador to the United Nations -- confirmed that, after Ankeney's tenure as a fellow at the El Pomar Foundation from January 1995 to September 1996, he wrote a letter of recommendation that helped Ankeney get accepted to law school. When Ankeney was seeking a job at Hogan & Hartson, Hybl said he spoke with the managing partner of the firm and again endorsed Ankeney.
Hybl, a former assistant district attorney, said he was "shocked" by the news of Ankeney's arrest. "I certainly understand the gravity of the charges that have been made," he said.
Bob Gardner, a Colorado Springs lawyer and former GOP chairman, is one of a handful of people who still freely identifies Ankeny as a friend, whom he has known for a decade.
"I believe anyone in this society is innocent until proven guilty," Gardner said. "The worst thing that anyone can do is speculate, and I'm not going to do it."
Last week, state Republican Party Vice Chairman Larry Liston, who served as a bonus member with Ankeney, denied that Ankeney had actually served as a co-chair to the Owens in 2002 re-election campaign. "He never has been the co-chair," Liston said.
However, Williams, who, along with Liston and two others, is heading up the governor's re-election efforts in the state's GOP stronghold of El Paso County, confirmed that Ankeney indeed served as a co-chairman.
"We knew and liked Randy -- we thought he was a bright fellow," said Liston.
"But on the face of things, we can all be fooled. I don't pretend to know all the nuances of what happened, but from what I've heard I'm extremely disappointed and sorry for the victim -- how he could get involved in anything like that? It's very painful and totally bewildering."
A plum job if you can get it
At $63,000 a year, Randy Ankeney's job monitoring new and existing businesses in the El Paso County region for the governor was a plum, given his experience.
Drew Bolin, the deputy director of the state office of economic development, said Ankeney's main qualifications were that he could identify by name the economic development leaders in the five-county area he oversaw -- including El Paso, Teller, Fremont, Park and Chaffee counties.
Bolin could not cite any specific businesses that Ankeney generated or maintained during his nine months on the job. Rather, Bolin described Ankeney's role as one that required him to work closely with local business leaders, inform them about potential state-sponsored EDC programs that might be available and call him every week to brief him on local developments in the business community.
Bolin denied that Ankeney's job was a political post. "These are not political jobs," he said of Ankeney's and three other similar regional economic development jobs that were created when Owens took office in 1998. "These jobs require people to know their communities very well," he said.
When Ankeney was hired, Owens extolled the selection: "Randy's background in the Colorado Springs area will help us greatly with out economic development efforts and be a real asset," Owens said.
However, after his arrest, Owens spokesman Dick Wadhams was quoted in an Aug. 9 Rocky Mountain News article saying "the governor is sickened by the charges. He extends his sympathies to the victim and her family."
Though Bolin claims the economic development job is not a political appointment, he confirmed that El Paso County GOP Chairman Chuck Broerman is being considered to replace Ankeney.
Broerman, a technical engineer, does not have a background in new business development, however he recently got laid off of his high-tech job at LSI Logic and is looking for work.
This week, Broerman echoed the governor's statement about Ankeney's legal troubles.
"We're deeply shocked and upset by this and our hearts and prayers are with the victim," Broerman said. "I have daughters of my own and I'm very upset."