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A bloody crime wave



When it comes to the race for top cop, the bloodbath has moved off our crime-ridden streets and into the inner sanctum of local Republican Party politics.

This is how it all began: 4th Judicial District Attorney Jeanne Smith -- who won office eight years ago after former District Attorney John Suthers anointed her as his replacement -- now wants to crown her assistant district attorney, Dan May, as her successor.

But democracy isn't supposed to be monarchy, which brings local Republicans to their quandary: John Newsome, a prosecutor who has worked for the district attorney for a decade, is also in the running. Last week, after the 2,000-member Chamber of Commerce, as well as the Colorado Springs Police Protective Association publicly endorsed Newsome's candidacy for the GOP primary, his boss, the woman who is openly supporting his opponent, demoted him.

Last Friday, about 40 of Newsome's supporters -- including an entertaining grouping of longtime Republican activists, criminal defense lawyers and law enforcement officials -- gathered in the freshly fallen snow and the chill across the street from the district attorney's downtown headquarters to deliver speeches of outrage and wave signs proclaiming the following:

"Free the DA's office"

"Dan May: Let my people go"

"You can't demote me: I vote"

"Dirty Dan's Dirty Demotion"

"Let John run"

"Smith sucks"

"It's a tragedy that Jeanne Smith and Dan May can do this to this guy," said John Sanaugstin, who works for the Sheriff's Office.

Local attorney Matt Werner termed Newsome's demotion "a good example of how that office is being badly run. Politics trump merit." Werner said he is but one of many local lawyers who want to break the Suthers-Smith-May titular chain of command.

During the demonstration, Newsome's supporters handed out a letter in which 52 former prosecutors attested to the candidate's dedication and hard work ethic. "He is an excellent supervisor who gets the most from those he works with," said the letter, which was dated Jan. 22 -- well before Newsome's demotion as a division head.

Demonstrators also handed out a list of 15 "Questions for Dan May," suggesting that the assistant district attorney was responsible for his opponent's demotion. Here's a sampling:

Did you demote John Newsome so that his office would be closer to yours and you could watch him?

Did you demote John Newsome so that he would have more court appearances and less chance to campaign against you?

Did you demote John Newsome for doing so well in this campaign and raising so much more money than you?

Mary Harold, a longtime GOP activist who was decked out in a full-length mink coat, delivered a rousing speech calling for fairness and honesty in the district attorney's office, and then Newsome's supporters decided to cross the street and deliver their protest placards directly to Smith. The protest ended on a flat note, however, after they were told the district attorney was not in her office.

This week, Smith was unavailable for comment. May, who is acting district attorney in her absence, said his boss is on medical leave for the next two weeks, but declined to specify the reason. He did, however, categorically reject prior knowledge of, or any involvement in, Smith's decision to demote his opponent.

"I had no input; I was not consulted; I had nothing to do with it," May said.

May, who has worked in the district attorney's office for 21 years, has the backing of Republican powerbrokers Mayor Lionel Rivera, developer Steve Schuck, County Commissioner Wayne Williams, former GOP chair and hardball strategist Bob Gardner (who is running his campaign) as well as his mom, former legislator Barbara Philips. May has also gotten the nod from the Colorado Realtor's political action committee.

On Tuesday, after a particularly nasty exchange during a forum sponsored by the Colorado Springs Business & Professional Republican Women, May responded to last week's demonstration by challenging Newsome to open up his personnel file so the public could learn the real reason for his demotion.

"John Newsome is the only person with the power to open up his personnel file," May noted.

The daggers are bloody. All we can say is, politically, this is not the most brilliant maneuver that Smith has executed during her eight years in office.


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