Recently, Pueblo District Attorney Jeff Chostner
issued a warning letter to Becky Mizel
, chairman of the Pueblo County Republican Party, regarding documents she said she accidentally removed from a meeting at the elections department in November. (See his full letter, via the Pueblo Chieftain
, and video evidence below.)
"It is a misdemeanor criminal violation for any person to willfully take, carry away, conceal, or remove any election records from a polling location or from a person authorized by law to have the custody of those records ..." Chostner wrote to Mizel in a letter dated Dec. 10, made public via a press release by the progressive group ProgressNow. (This is the same group that was recently barred
from some Republican events.)
The Pueblo Chieftain
has the full story here
, but it was the last part of Chostner's letter to Mizel that caught our interest.
"Based on this short summary and all of the other information presented to me, it appears that the evidence would support filing a misdemeanor election offense," he wrote. "However, based on your insistence that the removal of the document was unintentional; the fact you did return the documents after being confronted; and other considerations, including information that your actions have not resulted in any permanent harm; I have decided that criminal charges will not be filed."
It seems odd for a prosecutor — with, admittedly, wide leeway — to detail all the reasons he could prosecute somebody but won't. Anybody who's ever been pulled over has heard "Ignorance of the law is no excuse," and in an email to Chostner, I noted that courts don't seem to consider "It was an accident" a viable defense.
Asked if politics played into this at all, the Democrat told the Indy
"Politics had nothing to do with the decision. It was based on the facts and evidence of the case, just as we review all matters. In the normal scenario, this case would probably have not come to the office for review. It would have viewed as a minor case, and judicial economy would have dictated that it not be charged. The same analysis took place here.
"In attempting to view this case consistently with other such incidents, we chose not to prosecute. However, because of the potential effect on the electoral system, we thought it prudent to advise Ms. Mizel that any further such acts could result in a prosecution. You are correct that 'it was an accident' is not a legal excuse, but it is one that we weigh when viewing how a jury may look at a case."
DA Jeff Chostner to Rebecca Mizel