As a criminal defense attorney practicing throughout the Fifth Judicial District, I must respond to Deputy District Attorney Johnny Lombardi’s endorsement of Heidi McCollum for district attorney that appeared in last week’s paper.
Ms. McCollum is the assistant to Bruce Brown. Mr. Lombardi cites Ms. McCollum’s participation in the cases involving former Lake County Undersheriff Fernando Mendoza and the former Leadville Chief of Police Michael Leake. I was the court appointed defense attorney in each of the two cases. Ms. McCollum was the senior prosecutor who tried Mr. Mendoza’s case with Mr. Lombardi. During the Mendoza trial, the District Attorney’s office was sanctioned by the judge for failing to disclose the audio recording of one of their interviews of the alleged victim in the case. This is the most basic disclosure obligation known to prosecutors and derives from the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment. Counsel only learned of the recording during the trial.
Mr. Lombardi states that Mr. Leake was convicted of “several felonies” under Ms. McCollum’s watch. Mr. Leake accepted responsibility for his misconduct and pleaded guilty to two felonies, one count of theft, and one count of violation of the pawn broker’s act. He spared this community of the expense and embarrassment of a trial. Mr. Leake was placed on probation and was required to pay restitution. Mr. Leake has paid his restitution to the City of Leadville in full. Shocking to me in the Leake case was that apparently no district attorney had visited the evidence room in the Leadville Police Department for a matter of years. That is beyond my comprehension as a defense lawyer.
A substantial number of defense attorneys do support Braden Angel. It also appears that a rapidly growing number of other types of attorneys and caring community members also endorse Mr. Angel. Criminal defense attorneys serve an important role in protecting the rights of those accused of crime. As a Leadville resident, I am proud to serve our community in this capacity.
Mr. Lombardi shares his military service and service as a police officer to lend credibility to his endorsement. While we all appreciate his service, I am also a decorated military veteran having served as an artillery officer and judge advocate in the United States Marine Corps and Marine Corps Reserve for over 20 years. I am a combat veteran. I have served in two wars and retired as a Lieutenant Colonel. I am a former prosecutor and a former government appellate attorney. I have been practicing law for over 25 years. With that background, I am certainly qualified to enthusiastically endorse Braden Angel as your next district attorney. Again, if you want more of the same, vote for Ms. McCollum. If you hope to see the fair administration of justice, I encourage you to vote for Braden Angel.