Office Politics

The race is on for Boulder County District Attorney.

Although the girl said Craft had raped her only once, he admitted to having had sex with her a "couple, two, three times," the first in August 1998. The sex was consensual, he claimed. Police recorded his confession on tape.

"I feel like he is always watching me," wrote the victim. "I can't walk down the street without feeling like something bad is going to happen."

Craft was sentenced to two years in Boulder County Jail with work release, and fifteen years of probation.

Law and order: Mary Keenan wants to be Boulder's first new DA in 28 years.
Law and order: Mary Keenan wants to be Boulder's first new DA in 28 years.
Can a Republican win in Boulder? Dave Sanderson plans to find out.
Can a Republican win in Boulder? Dave Sanderson plans to find out.

Outraged by the pattern he'd found, Rosenfeld wrote a guest editorial for Boulder's Daily Camera. "Thirty years after the epidemic of child sexual abuse first came to the attention of society, very little is known with certainty about the men who commit the crime," he wrote. "This much is known: They do it; they lie about it when caught; and they keep doing it until stopped by society...We can be sure that if we let Ms. Keenan continue to leave these men in our community 'on probation,' someone's child will pay the price."

Keenan responded with her own guest editorial: "My record speaks for itself. Since 1991, out of nearly 900 felony cases I have prosecuted, 253 cases involved sexual assault against children. Those prosecutions included 19 jury trials, with only one acquittal. Two cases were retried after hung juries -- resulting in conviction. More than 40 percent of the 253 cases resulted in prison or jail sentences as part of the original plea agreement. These 253 cases do not include cases involving adult victims or physical abuse cases. In deciding on a plea agreement, I consider: 1) the seriousness of the offense, 2) the criminal history of the offender, 3) the strength of the evidence, 4) the victim's wishes, and 5) whether the offender is amenable to treatment."

It is impossible to compare Keenan's and Rosenfeld's numbers, because Keenan's span almost ten years while Rosenfeld's cover five. Keenan also lumps prison and jail sentences together, although some men go to jail only for weekends or are allowed out on work release.

"For a layperson to look at a file and say 'This looks soft' is presumptuous," Keenan says. "A layperson hasn't met the victim, doesn't know the family dynamics, doesn't know the strength of the evidence and doesn't know what the judge will do. Because each judge differs on what they'll do if you do go to trial and win. Some give probation; some give prison. There are a number of factors that when you work in an area ten years, you know how to balance.

"You don't put victims into a court system in order to look tough to the community. You do the best job you can for the safety of the community and the personal well-being of the victim. I've done an average of four major trials a year. I'm not afraid to go to trial," she continues. "If it's not a penetration case, if it's a first time offense -- that is, a first conviction -- if the person admits and if a psychiatrist says they can be treated and monitored in the community, we will offer probation."

Keenan believes that treatment and careful monitoring are effective. "You can't lock up all the sex offenders in prison for the rest of their lives," she says. "You have to find a way to manage them responsibly."

Sandy Long agrees with Keenan. "Sex assaults on children are notoriously difficult to prosecute," she says. "You have to be so careful that you don't get a conviction and sacrifice the kids. In at least half my cases, parents won't let the child testify. To my knowledge, everyone that Mary's able to prosecute, she does. She's just an absolute bulldog."

"You've got to be kidding," responds a Denver lawyer after scanning a list of Keenan's cases and dispositions. "I'm a defense attorney, and I'd give these people more time."

But while Rosenfeld criticizes Keenan's record, there are those who question his. He plays a key role in the national underground movement that spirits away women -- with their children -- who have accused men of child molestation and have been ordered by courts to comply with custody or visitation arrangements they consider dangerous. In 1991, Rosenfeld's license to practice law was suspended for six months by the Supreme Court of Vermont on three counts.

"Essentially, in 1987 I gave accurate advice to a client that, in a specific circumstance, a particular judge would not punish her for denying visitation for one weekend following her daughter's disclosure of sexual abuse," Rosenfeld says. "The Vermont Supreme Court found that by giving her the accurate information, I was in violation of a rule prohibiting a lawyer from encouraging a client to disobey a court order. I think they were wrong, but so be it."

And Rosenfeld's criticisms aren't the only ones Keenan has had to field in this race. There are also pointed questions about a piece of DNA evidence -- a pubic hair -- in the trial of Johnny Lee, one of five men accused of gang-raping a twenty-year-old University of Colorado student over a year ago. Judge Murray Richtel threw out the evidence because Keenan had failed to provide crucial information to the defense in a timely manner. The Colorado Supreme Court has agreed to hear Keenan's appeal.

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