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Dear records stay sealed, Collins hearing ramps up, 2015 Springs fatalities, and more


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Dear records still sealed

District Judge Gilbert Martinez says releasing search and arrest warrants in the Robert Dear case would be "contrary to the public interest," and the records will remain sealed indefinitely.

Dear, 57, is charged with 179 counts, including eight counts of first-degree murder, in the Nov. 27 shooting at Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs. A coalition of media, including the Independent, filed a motion Dec. 17 to unseal the warrants, which typically outline facts of a case and what was sought and taken from any buildings subject to search warrants.

Martinez ruled Dec. 30 that the warrants should remain under wraps due to privacy interests of victims and witnesses, and because the investigation is ongoing. He noted in his decision that he will revisit the issue "as the case progresses." In other high-profile cases, such as the Aurora theater shooting for which James Holmes was found guilty, records remained under seal until the preliminary hearing. Dear has been ordered to undergo a competency evaluation and is due back in court Feb. 24; no preliminary hearing has been set.

Although District Attorney Dan May's office originally sought to have the records sealed, May didn't oppose the media's motion to unseal them.

Arrest affidavits are routinely released amid pending investigations of crimes, sometimes the same day or day after they're filed. — PZ

Collins hearing begins

A year after the City Attorney's Office filed an ethics complaint against Councilor Helen Collins, a three-day hearing began on Tuesday before a hearing officer who Collins alleges was hired illegally.

The city's complaint alleged Collins enabled anti-tax activist Douglas Bruce to dodge a city court judgment by serving as a go-between in the sale of Bruce's late mother's home in December 2014.

Former federal magistrate Boyd Boland of Paonia was hired to hear the case. He's to be paid $3,000 a day, which means he has a financial interest in "pleasing the city, his employer," Collins says in a list of 32 objections to the hearing submitted on Tuesday. Collins maintains he wasn't hired by City Council, because it never voted to hire him, as required by the city's ethics code procedures.

In a motion to disqualify Boland, Collins refers to him as the hearing officer, or "HO," and claims the HO inappropriately allowed subpoenas to be issued in the matter, which he labeled as arbitration. In her motion, Collins says arbitration is "a process to enforce a contractual provision to resolve contract disputes" but that "as a matter of law, she is not a City employee, but an elected official."

Among those subpoenaed was Bruce, who said he would serve as Collins' "technical advisor" but not as an attorney. "This whole thing is rampantly illegal," Bruce told the Indy. "They don't know squat about due process of law."

At the hearing, Boland ordered witnesses sequestered, drawing protests from Bruce. But he did leave the room.

Bruce notes to the Indy the complaint was filed by City Attorney Wynetta Massey on behalf of the city. This, he says, sets up Council as "complaining party, judge, jury and executioner."

The judge is to issue a ruling, which Council must approve, deny or modify, the Council said in a release. — PZ

Gazette editor departing

Joanna Bean, editor of the Gazette for the past 16 months, has taken a position providing social media expertise at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. She starts Jan. 19 in the $50,000-a-year job.

Bean's title will be assistant director of the communications and media relations office, according to the Gazette; she'll manage UCCS social media and support internal communications and media relations efforts.

Bean has been with the daily paper since 1990, serving in a variety of roles. She had an editing hand in the series published in April 2013 that led to a Pulitzer Prize for reporter Dave Philipps in 2014. He left shortly after receiving the award for a New York Times reporting position. Bean's departure is one of many in recent months, including that of long-time city editor Sue McMillin, who went to the Durango Herald, and columnist Bill Vogrin, now editor of two weeklies in the region.

Publisher Dan Steever will serve as interim Gazette editor pending a national search, the newspaper reported. — PZ

Police release 2015 stats

Twenty-six people died in homicides in Colorado Springs in 2015, including the six victims of the two mass shootings late in the year. Police have made arrests in 13 cases. Three cases are listed as "exceptional," which means they have been cleared but no arrest was made as is common in a murder/suicide.

Six cases are under review by the district attorney to decide whether to file charges, including the killing of mass shooter Noah Harpham by police, and the three victims Harpham killed. Four cases are still open and being investigated.

Police Spokesperson Lt. Catherine Buckley says the department routinely clears 90 percent of homicides, far higher than the national average around 50 percent.

The city had 30 traffic fatalities in 2015. Nine were pedestrians (five victims were found to be at fault); six were motorcyclists (four victims were found at fault); 10 were driving a car or vehicle (all were found at fault); five were passengers in vehicles (two at fault). — JAS

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