Thursday, August 3, 2017

Officer who testified in Maketa case says he misspoke

Posted By on Thu, Aug 3, 2017 at 4:39 PM

From the "What's up with that?" file:

During the trial of former El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa, Sheriff's Officer Chuck Kull — who was a player in the messy scandal surrounding Maketa's departure and current Sheriff Bill Elder's election — was called to testify for the prosecution. Toward the end of his testimony, a juror posed the question of whether Kull had been involved in any internal affairs investigations (disciplinary investigations) while serving with the Fountain Police Department. His answer was "none," according to a Twitter account being provided by the Gazette contemporaneously during the trial, as seen here:
District Attorney Dan May at a recent news conference on an unrelated matter. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • District Attorney Dan May at a recent news conference on an unrelated matter.
Another person who witnessed the testimony corroborates the question and answer, and Kull himself admits that's what he said.

Now we learn that Kull had, in fact, been the subject of an IA investigation while serving with the Fountain PD, where he was employed from Jan. 27, 2014, until May 22, 2015, after which he returned to the Sheriff's Office.

Specifically, Kull was advised of the investigation on Feb. 12, 2015, in a memo from Fountain Police Administrator Michael Haley. Kull initialed and signed the form, acknowledging he understood the situation. The IA was triggered by a complaint and was not sustained, meaning, Haley tells the Independent, there was insufficient evidence to prove or disprove the allegation.

Here's the report:

Haley further explains via email:
Kull was working as a SRO [school resource officer] and contacted a student. Disclosure of time, location, and other information would likely unmask the student/incident to the student body, the faculty, and the community at-large. The nature of the investigation was two-fold: First, Officer Kull responded to what he perceived as a disturbance. Was the response appropriate for the circumstances? Second, Officer Kull applied force by use of his hands. The actions with his hands were in dispute. There were no independent witnesses identified or body worn video captured. The attached document [attached above] confirms the IA investigation, the findings, and relevant highlighted policy. The policy was highlighted to assist the chain of command during their insight, to quickly find the relevant policy.
Now, Kull says through his attorney, Shimon Kohn, who also represented him in his case against the county that resulted in a cash payout (more on that below), that he didn't remember the IA.

From Kohn, via email:
At the time he was asked, Lt. Kull did not remember an IA investigation while working in Fountain. It wasn't until July 31st when Lt. Kull was contacted by Mike Haley at the Fountain Police Department and told the Independent was seeking information about him, that he remembered that he had been questioned about a contact with a juvenile. Lt. Kull did not believe this was anything more than a father concerned about the way his son had been talked to. These types of investigations are common place in law enforcement and this one was no different. It turned out that the juvenile subsequently admitted that he participated in fabricating a story against Lt. Kull. It should be noted that Lt. Kull did not wish to charge the young man with making a false report (which he could have done) and the matter was dropped. It is understandable he would not immediately recall a ten minute conversation with Mr. Haley from approximately 3 years ago.
To be clear, Haley says the investigation found insufficient evidence of whether excessive force was used.

In the way of background, Kull's name arose amid allegations that Bill Elder's El Paso County Sheriff's internal affairs file had disappeared. At the time, Elder was a candidate in the 2014 election to become the next sheriff. Elder is now sheriff and Kull supported his election bid.

You can read the Independent's story here.

Kull and Emory Gerhart resigned amid the investigation of the missing file in December 2013, then sued the county claiming they had been harassed and emotionally abused under the leadership of Maketa. In May 2015, the county settled by paying a combined total of $198,000 for the cases.

Read about Kull's testimony at the trial, as reported by the Gazette here.

The issue at this moment is whether Kull will suffer any blowback from his answer during the Maketa trial when asked about an IA file in Fountain.

We asked Sheriff Elder to comment on the circumstances regarding Kull's testimony and got this comment from his spokeswoman Jackie Kirby via email, "The Sheriff was not in the courtroom when Charles Kull testified in the Maketa Trial, therefore he has no comment."

We also asked District Attorney Dan May about whether it would investigate Kull's testimony and consider placing him on the Brady List, a list of officers who have departed from the truth at some juncture that's provided to defense attorneys in cases in which those officers will be called to testify.

Via his spokeswoman Lee Richards, May said, "Since the (Maketa) case is open and pending, we aren’t able to comment."

Maketa was acquitted on some charges and the jury hung on other charges in July. He'll be retried on the pending charges in October by the 18th Judicial District. May recused himself from the matter citing potential conflicts of interest.

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