By Joel Warner
By Michael Roberts
By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
By the time Crippen was released in April 2000, there were billboards and bus-bench placards all over Denver and Colorado Springs promoting Project Exile. "Pack an illegal gun, pack your bags for prison," they warned. Those ads, as well as late-night TV spots pushing Project Exile, encouraged citizens to "stop gun violence" by turning in felons who possessed firearms.
In late August 2000, Gary Davis found photos in his house of his ex-wife, a newly paroled felon, naked, in another man's apartment, handling another man's guns. He did as the Project Exile billboards instructed and called the proper authorities.
"It was pretty much a straight-up revenge thing for him," Crippen says.
From the sentencing report in the case of the United States versus Katica Crippen:"The parties agree the government's evidence would have established the following: On September 1, 2000, Agent Blea of the Colorado Department of Corrections Community Corrections Office told Colorado Springs Police that the defendant's husband, Gary Davis, had told her that he had seen photographs of his wife posing with firearms, and that Agent Blea had herself seen multiple color computer scanned photographs of Crippen posing with assorted firearms.
"Agent Blea told CSPD these photographs concerned her since Ms. Crippen was currently in ISP and was prohibited from possessing firearms.
"CSPD then conducted surveillance on Ms. Crippen and saw her driving away from a computer business in a white Honda. Knowing that she had no license to drive a car, the officers stopped defendant and arrested her for violating her ISP.... During a search of the car, the officers found assorted firearm ammunition. The defendant's husband consented to a search of their home by Colorado Department of Corrections, and 21 professional-style photographs of the defendant posing with several handguns were recovered. The pictures depicted the defendant holding the guns in her hands or displayed around her. In several of the photographs, the defendant's ISP ankle bracelet is visible.
"On September 6, CSPD officers and federal agents for the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms executed a search warrant at [the photographer's] home. The officers found additional photographs of the defendant posing with firearms. They also found seven firearms. A comparison between the firearms in the photographs and the firearms recovered from the residence shows that they are the same firearms, to wit: a Sig Arms .45 caliber semi-automatic pistol; a Smith & Wesson .357 caliber revolver; an AMT, Hardballer Longslide .45 caliber semi-automatic pistol; a Smith & Wesson model 60-10, .357 magnum revolver; a Smith & Wesson .44-magnum revolver; a Ruger model Mark II target .22 caliber pistol; and a Colt model MKIV, series 80, .45 semi-automatic pistol."
The guns were all legal, and legally owned by the photographer, who was never charged with a crime.
He also never saw any of his guns again.
"They were destroyed," he says. "They told me right at the beginning that if I didn't voluntarily surrender the guns, it could be seen as my being combative, and they'd find a way to prosecute me, so I gave up."
The guns were worth about $8,000, he says: "There were a couple of .45 caliber pistols in there that were designed for competition; they were close to a grand out of the box, and they'd had a couple thousand dollars of custom work done on them. It was an expensive hit for me."
The photographer says neither he nor Crippen made any money off of the pictures. "There have been some stories that said we put them on a pay-per-view pornographic Web site, and that's just not true," he says. "They were purely for our own personal enjoyment. She put a few up on her personal Web site, but she didn't charge to see them. She even posed for free. I didn't pay her a modeling fee, per se, although I was helping her out financially at that point in her life."
He couldn't afford to hire her a private attorney, however, so Crippen was appointed a federal public defender, Susan Cushman. Crippen says Cushman encouraged her to plead guilty, but didn't explain that a guilty plea would mean she'd have to serve the remainder of her state prison sentence before beginning her federal sentence on the gun charge. (Federal sentencing rules prohibit such sentences from being served concurrently.)
"There was a communication breakdown between my attorney and me," Crippen says. "She misrepresented to me what would happen after I made a guilty plea, and she would never speak to me at length about my case." (Cushman did not return Westword's calls.)
Crippen now wishes she'd taken her case to trial. "I would have basically just said to the jury, 'We all know this is ridiculous. Let's save you taxpayers a lot of money and get us all out of here.'"
Instead, she pleaded guilty and threw herself on the mercy of U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch, the federal judge who'd overseen the Oklahoma City bombing trial. She could have done worse: Matsch cut her a major break.
Federal sentencing guidelines required Matsch to sentence Crippen to between 63 and 78 months in prison -- unless he decided there were "special or unusual" features to her case that justified his disregarding the guidelines.