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Noted: Cops finding closure on crime lab mistakes


Cops seek lab-error closure

Four months after announcing that crime lab mistakes had inflated the results from dozens of blood alcohol tests conducted in 2009, Colorado Springs law enforcement officials held a news conference Monday to assure the public that in their internal affairs investigation, the problem of mistaken test results had been solved.

So what went wrong?

"We don't know exactly what the error was on those particular days," said Ian Fitch, director of the Metro Crime Lab.

That detail aside, police did say they identified 206 errors going back to 2007, all of them allegedly tied to a single lab technician who no longer works for the department. According to District Attorney Dan May, the investigation uncovered nine tests that improperly pushed defendants over one of three legal thresholds in blood-alcohol content: .05 for the crime of driving while ability impaired, .08 for driving under the influence, or .20 for being so intoxicated that a mandatory 10-day jail sentence is imposed.

Charges in those cases were dismissed, May said, and court costs were refunded.

May also praised the police department for its handling of the investigation. Police announced on Dec. 11 that they had discovered 82 flawed tests conducted in 2009. The 2009 total swelled to 167 as the lab's tests were audited as far back as 2006, and 39 additional mistakes from 2007 were identified.

Contrary to media reports, the lab did not actually retest all 7,892 blood tests conducted from 2006 through 2009. The lab only had blood samples that could be retested going back into late 2008. For those, chemists checked two samples from each batch of about 20. If the retest for both samples came within 10 percent of the original, the batch was determined to be "good." Earlier tests (prior to late 2008) were checked by examining data from the instrument used to measure alcohol levels in the blood.

Fitch said new procedures are in place to prevent further errors in the future. — AL

Walker ranch for sale

Last week, Pueblo County rancher Gary Walker told reporters he had offered Fort Carson his entire 60,000-acre ranch on the post's southeast side, hoping to avoid the estate tax. Walker stands to inherit the land from his ailing parents and says the tax would be exorbitant.

But Fort Carson isn't likely to take him up on the full offer. Garrison Commander Col. Robert McLaughlin says Fort Carson already has purchased 15,000 acres at a cost of $21 million around the base as a buffer zone, and is interested in only 7,200 acres of Walker's land on the southeast corner. The tract spans 15 miles and is two miles wide, McLaughlin says.

"The goal is so that people are not bothered by the training," he says.

Walker's ranch also lies in the path of Colorado Springs Utilities' Southern Delivery System water pipeline, and Walker has said he doesn't want the line to disrupt the property ("A prickly path," News, Jan. 21). — PZ

Trial on hold

Jerald Day's trial on multiple charges stemming from a 2009 episode in which he drove drunk and waved his gun at Douglas County lawmen has been put off.

Day, a former El Paso County sheriff's detective, was transferred to a civilian job in the jail last fall and is still employed there.

An 18th Judicial District Court spokeswoman said the trial, which had set to begin on Tuesday, had been vacated. A motions hearing is set for May 25 and a trial status hearing is set for Aug. 13. No further information on the case was immediately available.

Day, 43, had been charged with felony menacing, felony vehicular eluding, DUI, resisting arrest and other charges. — PZ

Digging into the molehill?

The owners of Marigold Café and Bakery found themselves in quite a pickle when they failed to get the proper permit from the Colorado Springs Liquor and Beer Licensing Board before updating their bar's cabinets ("Marigold's molehill," News, April 15). Now, they face delaying their project and could even be punished by the liquor board, especially since their efforts to ease the situation only made things worse.

But help may be on the way. City Councilor Scott Hente, recently returned from an international trip, says he plans to look into the popular French restaurant's woes. Marigold, located off Centennial Boulevard north of Garden of the Gods Road, is in Hente's district.

"Actually, a couple people have asked me to look into it, and I'm going to do that," he says, adding, "I kind of thought [Marigold's infraction] was in the 'no big deal' category."

Hente says he needs to do a little investigating before he goes on any crusade. "I haven't had a chance to talk to any of my colleagues," he says. "I haven't had chance to talk to [City Clerk Kathryn Young]." — JAS

Who's Richard Nasby?

Republicans in north El Paso County might have a choice for county commissioner in the August primary, after all — Monument resident Richard Nasby has taken out a petition for District 1. If he collects the required 2,049 signatures by May 27, he'll face Springs City Councilman Darryl Glenn in the Aug. 10 primary election.

A Loveland native, Nasby earned a business degree from the University of Denver in 1980. He ran an Amoco station in Loveland before moving overseas to work for British Telecom for a dozen years.

Nasby, who teaches management, marketing and advertising in Regis University's MBA program at Denver, says he's running because the county needs to better regulate development.

"Every time we get a new development," he says, "there's no Xeriscape requirements." Despite master plans that guide development in Tri-Lakes, Black Forest and other areas, Nasby says he sees "the rules get bent."

A registered Republican since 1975, Nasby says he's voted in every election since, including by absentee from Europe, but he's never sought elective office. — PZ

Boyd's first book

Pastor Brady Boyd is the guy who took over New Life Church, once a national religious and political powerhouse, after Pastor Ted Haggard. Boyd's the guy who had to bring members back before the church found itself broke. And he encountered even more challenges at New Life.

Sounds like there might be an interesting book in all that. Sure enough, Boyd has announced he'll write about his New Life experience in Everyone Overcome, his first book, which will be published by Zondervan in Spring 2011.

In a blog post, Boyd says he considered writing a book earlier, but it didn't feel right.

"Looking back, I know now why I was led to wait," he writes. "The book I am writing is a reflection of the last three years — my journey to New Life, the shooting and the great pain we experienced as a fellowship, what we learned about each other and about God. It is a story of a miracle."

Boyd says he hopes his book will help other struggling people. — JAS

Senate debate set Friday

Most of the news in the state's Democratic race for U.S. Senate has been horse-race stuff: Who raises more money, picks up more delegates at county assemblies, or takes the most liberties with Photoshop.

So the Friday debate between Andrew Romanoff and Sen. Michael Bennet at Colorado College's Worner Center, 902 N. Cascade Ave., offers the rare chance to see the candidates stand up beside each other and explain their differences. Friday's debate, sponsored by the Independent, KRDO News Channel 13 and KRDO News Radio, starts at 7 p.m. and will be broadcast live on 105.5 FM/1240 AM.

A limited number of tickets will be handed out by lottery before the debate; show up before 6:30 for the best chance of getting in. Those who have tickets should be seated by 6:45, at which point the doors will close and vacant seats will be filled.

For those who don't get in, monitors around the Worner Center will show the event live. — AL

TCA picks Christian leader

Surprise, surprise: The Classical Academy, a system of public charter schools in Academy School District 20 that has been repeatedly accused of religious bias, has hired David Bohn, leader of a Colorado Springs church ministry, as its new president.

Bohn has a doctorate degree in education, but no education-related work experience outside the church. He will come from Entrust ministry to replace Mark Hyatt, who led TCA for seven years before accepting a job as the new executive director of the state's Charter School Institute.

Under Hyatt's leadership, TCA schools performed well academically but faced controversy. In 2009, TCA parents lodged complaints with the state saying school officials ignored religious bias, Christian teachings in the classroom, bullying, racism and even sexual assault. An investigation by the Colorado Department of Education found merit in the complaints, as well as concerns about accounting practices at the charter schools. — JAS

Cox begins new job

Steve Cox took the reins Monday as the city's interim city manager, moving into his office in the City Administration Building at 8 a.m. and then wading through a couple meetings with staff.

So far, Cox says, things are going well.

"I don't know if it's a honeymoon period or what," he says. "Everyone's been very pleasant."

Cox says he feels that City Manager Penny Culbreth-Graft did a great job preparing him to lead the city in a positive direction before she resigned. — JAS

Compiled by Anthony Lane, J. Adrian Stanley and Pam Zubeck.

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