Off Limits

Beat the clock: No sooner had Denver Post publisher Ryan McKibben announced his imminent departure (he's outta there November 30) than speculation started regarding when editor Dennis Britton will be disappeared. A Westword pool lays heavy odds on just after the first of the year--and we aren't the only ones taking bets. Check out http:/members.aol.com/empirvoic/dennispage.html, where "The Dennis Britton Countdown Clock" lets you vote on his departure date and add to anonymous Post employees' comments: "I want to congratulate the creators of this web page for having the guts to stand up to one of the biggest bullies in journalism," writes one; says another,"Whomever is behind this mockery of Mr. Britton should be made to apologize to the people of Denver."

The site includes links to news accounts of Britton's finest moments--never mind that many of those moments were engineered by the prankster who might, just might, be responsible for the countdown clock as well. The site's reportedly sponsored by the Edgar O'Malley foundation, which, not coincidentally, was also the name of the prestigious--and completely fictitious--journalism award that Britton supposedly won, announced in a press kit so elaborate that the Post was ready to run a front-page story lauding the honor until a killjoy weekend editor did some fact-checking. Then, of course, there was the John Elway nipple-ring scoop and the Britton retirement hoax (he was going to devote himself to beekeeping, according to a July 3 release that stung a few media outlets around town).

But the Post's biggest editorial embarrassment, that "Snapshots of Colorado" bus bust, was all Britton's doing. Say cheesy.

Photo finish: Enough, already, with the all the yammering from the dailies' competing gossipmongers about who took a photo off the wall at Morton's of Chicago. A better question: Who cares? A still better question: When will restaurants end their ludicrous efforts to scare up celebrities to decorate their walls?

Much more inventive were those two images projected on the Speer-side wall of Boettcher Concert Hall Monday night: what appeared to be giant, anatomically correct, medical-textbook-worthy photographs of female nether regions. Could this be the work of another prankster creating a Snatchshots of Colorado?

The city is trying to revive interest in the parkland alongside the Denver Center Performing Arts Complex, says DCPA director of public affairs Gully Stanford, but graphic displays are not part of the deal. The images, he explains, are simply projections of filaments inside the still-empty spotlights, which one day will project slides of dance, music and other performing-arts icons on the wall. And that day will come soon, promises Rod Smith, who's in charge of the million-dollar-plus signage project at the site for the city. So soon, in fact, that after curious calls, his crew was out adjusting the lights--and covering butts--Tuesday night.

Now, about that Jesus on a tortilla...

Pleas and thank you: Last week the Denver-based 10th Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments on whether to accept an earlier ruling by a three-judge panel that plea bargains offered to witnesses and defendants in exchange for their testimony in criminal cases are unconstitutional. Plea bargains have become a standard tool with prosecutors trolling for bigger fish; if upheld, the so-called Singleton decision could mean that a lot of smaller fish get thrown back into the pond.

Since the Singleton decision surprised lawyers and defendants alike this past July, the national debate has been hot and heavy. Many in the justice system give the decision a lawyer's chance in heaven of surviving, and earlier this fall, a federal judge in Baltimore weighed in with his opinion. The possibilities that Singleton would ultimately be upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, he wrote, "are, in this court's judgment, about the same as discovering that the entire roster of the Baltimore Orioles consists of cleverly disguised leprechauns."

Still, if such deals are found to be illegal, it would affect thousands of cases--from low-level drug busts supported by information obtained from confidential informants to the high-profile case of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, who was convicted in part based on the testimony of co-conspirator Michael Fortier. And the federal Public Defenders Office here has been taking no chances. In the past four months the office has filed what amounts to a form document for nearly every case in which a defendant or witness was offered immunity or a reduced penalty in exchange for his testimony. The now-standard filing challenges the charges--whatever they may be--based on the Singleton decision. That way, if such deals are later found to be illegal, the defense will have automatic grounds for appeal.

Heaven, indeed.

 
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