As the story unfolds in Colorado, keep this in mind: District Attorneys are supposed to execute and enforce the criminal laws and their penalties, not craft transparently deceptive ways around them so that felons can avoid those penalties and remain in a community to victimize it again. The more the public focuses on Bill Ritter’s “deportation nullification” policy during his years as Denver DA, the more it will become obvious that he ought not to be given the job of executing all of Colorado’s other laws.
Plea Bargain Bill tried four different responses in a Rocky Mountain News story yesterday about the revelation that as Denver DA he plea bargained alien felons charged with serious crimes to the non-deportable offense of trespass on agricultural lands:
Ritter said Beauprez was trying to “confuse” the public by mixing cases involving illegal and legal immigrants, who have a completely different standing within the judicial system.
“I think he’s being terribly irresponsible in lumping legal immigrants with illegal immigrants,” Ritter said.
“We would do things to ensure they had a felony conviction even when there were serious evidentiary problems,” Ritter said. “They were still pleading to felonies – they’re not misdemeanors.”
Ultimately, Ritter said, federal immigration officials, not the district attorney, decide who gets deported. When it comes to deciding what crimes trigger deportation of legal immigrants, Ritter said district attorneys nationwide had a difficult time getting a straight answer from federal authorities.
“I’ll tell you, I had lengthy conversations with people at the INS from Washington, D.C., when even they were vague about what was deportable and what wasn’t,” he said.
Ritter said Beauprez “hit” him with the allegations late in the day Friday, preventing him from being able to respond to the details of each case. He said his office had prosecuted 37,000 cases in those years, and Beauprez had cherry-picked five obscure cases to try to make a political point.
What Ritter cannot explain away is a policy that purposefully used an obscure and absurd charge –trespass on agricultural land– as a means of keeping alien felons from being deported. Employing this tactic not only undermines the legitimacy of the prosecutor’s office –“agricultural trespass” is a “crime” completely different from the crimes the felons were charged with, not a “lesser included” offense– the purposeful frustration of the deportation laws kept criminals in the country who ought to have been sent to their home country.
As the Denver Post points out, there are more than 150 such cases, and the actions of each of these non-deprotees after they got their get-out-of-deportation-free cards from Bill Ritter are very much the responsibility of Bill Ritter.
The Rocky Mountain News reporters let Ritter get away with a series of non-sequitors that went unchallenged (you can’t “cherry-pick” 150 cases reflecting a carefully implemented policy, and there’s been no “confusing” the public going on legal versus illegal aliens –the issue is purposeful manipulation of charges to avoid deportation). The reporters evidently didn’t think to ask Ritter if he was proud of the policy and whether he would urge its adoption on all Colorado Distritcy Attorneys if elected. They also didn’t ask if Ritter was worried about allowing felon aliens to stay in the state, and whether he is responsible to the victims of subsequent crimes committed by the non-deportees.
The News’ staff may be embarassed by the paper’s endorsement of Ritter on the very day this story broke, an endorsement that included the ringing declarations that set aside misgivings about Riotter’s “inexperience outside the law enforcement realm” because “while there are many unknowns regarding Ritter, the state of his integrity is not one of them” and that “since his appointment as Denver DA in 1993, and he has shown himself to be a person who means what he says, with little of the ducking and spinning that characterizes many politicians.”
On the same day as this early endorsement, a major story breaks that completely undermines the quality of Ritter’s experience within law enforcement, goes directly to integrity, and is met with spinning of a Clinton-level quality.
The News’ editorial board may not be embarrassed, but it should be. And it should retract this “endorsement” given that the reasons offered to support it have been impeached in striking fashion.
To repeat: District Attorneys are supposed to execute and enforce the criminal laws and their penalties, not craft transparently deceptive ways around them so that felons can avoid those penalties and remain in a community to victimize it again. The more the public focuses on Ritter’s “deportation nullification” policy, the more it will become obvious that he ought not to be given the job of executing all of Colorado’s other laws.