The Big Bitch

The secret behind long sentences handed out to repeat offenders in the 18th Judicial District

From January 2010 until July 1 of this year, Denver prosecutors filed 25 habitual-criminal cases. Prosecutors in the 1st Judicial District, encompassing populous Jefferson County and Gilpin County, filed eighteen cases.

During that same eighteen-month period, Chambers's office filed 623 habitual-criminal cases.

Four years ago, when Westword first reported on the flood of habitual-criminal filings in the 18th, DA Chambers expressed surprise that the numbers weren't higher. "I guess we have fewer habitual criminals than I thought," she said ["The Punisher," February 8, 2007]. She's since stepped up the pace, going from 232 bitch filings in 2006 to 455 in 2010, according to data obtained from the state court administrator's office. Of the 2,028 habitual-criminal cases filed statewide over a three-year period, almost half of them were filed by just one of the state's 22 district attorneys: Carol Chambers.

Prosecutors in the 18th Judicial District filed 623 habitual-criminal cases in an 18-month period; more than half of the total targeted repeat offenders facing escape (130), drug (123) or theft (107) charges.
Prosecutors in the 18th Judicial District filed 623 habitual-criminal cases in an 18-month period; more than half of the total targeted repeat offenders facing escape (130), drug (123) or theft (107) charges.

Does Arapahoe County have a far greater concentration of "people who need to be incarcerated for a long period of time" than the rest of the state? There's no question that Chambers seeks enhanced habitual-criminal sentences for cases involving homicide, assault and sex crimes at a greater rate than other district attorneys — and she's not shy about defending that policy.

"Eight percent of the population commits 80 percent of the crime," she says. "We want to make clear to repeat offenders that they can expect enhanced sentences if they continue to engage in criminal conduct in this community."

But what's striking about the habitual filings in the 18th district is the type of offender being targeted most of the time. In more than three-fourths of the cases, the underlying crime is a non-violent one (see graph). And more than half of them fall into one of three categories: drugs, theft or "escape" — which, in the vast majority of cases, involves not tunneling out of prison, but walking away from a halfway house or failing to keep a parole officer informed of your current residence. A felony escape charge in Denver or Adams County might result in a prison sentence of one or two years; in Arapahoe County, the prospect of a 48-year habitual-criminal sentence for the same offense typically results in plea deals that send the offender to prison for between six and twelve years.

"It's a bit like living in a Third World country," says Jim O'Connor, the 18th's chief public defender. "If you walk across Colfax with a rock of crack in your pocket and you get picked up by the cops in Arapahoe County, your entire universe just changed."

Defense attorneys say that the kind of prosecutorial discretion and case-by-case review that's expected in habitual cases has gone by the wayside since Chambers was elected in 2004. "They file habitual charges on everyone who is eligible, from the very start," says Natalie Chase, a former prosecutor who now specializes in fighting habitual charges. "The purpose of the statute is to punish repeat, violent offenders. What Carol Chambers is doing is taking that a step further: People with simple drug-possession charges are getting habitualized. There's no violence involved. They may have been stopped, and they have crack or cocaine on them. If you question the legality of the traffic stop, if you raise any constitutional issues, all offers are revoked and your client is facing the maximum years."

Chambers disagrees with Chase about the intent of the statute. All prosecutors tend to deal more harshly with people who have prior felonies than with those who don't, she points out; her office just happens to uniformly file habitual charges on everyone who's eligible to "ensure consistency." The fact that many of the underlying offenses are non-violent doesn't mean the offenders don't deserve to have the book thrown at them. Escapes from halfway houses are "a community safety issue," she says, and even property crimes "have a significant impact on victims or the community."

"Seeking an enhanced sentence for a habitual offender is no different than seeking a legislatively authorized mandatory sentence for a crime of violence," she says. And an enhanced sentence of 48 years doesn't really mean 48 years, she adds; since the prison system routinely gives time off for good behavior, it's more likely to be around 24 years.

That may not be much consolation to people serving that kind of time, or to critics who claim the policy costs the state millions in added prison costs. Arapahoe County sends fewer people to prison each year than Denver, Jefferson County or Adams County, yet the high number of habitual cases suggests that the average offender in the 18th is probably going away for a longer period of time than felons from other jurisdictions who commit the same crime.

The district attorneys who file habitual cases less frequently than Chambers certainly don't consider themselves any softer on crime; instead, they talk about what they consider to be appropriate degrees of punishment — and the fact that not all felonies are created equal. "The legislature in the 1990s and early 2000s felonized many offenses that were previously misdemeanors," Garnett notes. "Having three prior felonies can, in some instances, mean three prior convictions for not terribly serious behavior."

Chambers says her deputies have discretion to dismiss the habitual-criminal charge if mitigating factors are involved. The disparity in sentencing between her district and surrounding counties doesn't trouble her at all.

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44 comments
N0fa1th
N0fa1th

I have fallen victim to Chambers office. They literally made up charges that weren't there and attempted, with vigor to destroy my family, even attempting to coerce my children to lie. I have never come across anything like this. They are bullies and dishonest. Chamber's also pays bonuses to her team for successful convictions it's disgusting. I thought this kind of kangeroo system of justice was abolished in Germany in 1945. Obviously not.

Angelsummers601
Angelsummers601

This lady is so corupt not even funny, and all her boys that follow. This is nothing more than organized crime with badges to protect them from getting charged, and to bully citizens around, trying to make as many puppets as possible.

Cachetmkr
Cachetmkr

Need to get rid of the Bitch, I mean the big bitch.

Jimjill
Jimjill

Is she a little nuts or what?

Not on your side
Not on your side

The 18th is a cash grab district, plain and simple.

Trust me when I say this as a once 19 year old kid that was set up, literally entrapped as I would learn as I grew older and wiser, charged with a class 4 felony for selling a nickle bag of shwag to an undercover police officer who pressed me into giving him my last j. My first and second answers were, no. He then offered 10 dollars. Who knew I was ahead of the MMJ scene in 1993?

My "public defender; despite a perfect, unblemished juvenile and adult record, recommended a "plea", which I trustingly accepted. The irony: I was working at the Patrick J Sullivan Justice Center under said Sheriff at the time. Guess I should have had some Meth friends and liked gay sex, huh?

Was it because my last name has a tilde? Like to think not.

The concept of justice is lost in the wheeling and dealing, in which lose-lose scenarios play out continuously. In the end, we as a society will be judged by our laws, and I call on the educated amongst us to take action.

This is now beyond just Carol Chambers, the over-zealous Witch of the West, and it is now an indictment on all who have the power of the vote in that district.

Not one nickle of my paycheck will be diverted to contributing to this farce.

I, as one, will refuse to patronize any business in that district until Carol Chambers is ousted and policies are in line with those of other counties and, I don't know, JUSTICE. You do realize she incentivizes her prosecutors with bonuses based on conviction rates, right? Might as well get my # tattoo and board my train for my special shower.

I vote every day with the dollar I choose to spend or not spend.

Last January Bob's Towing filed with the state to take my car after it was towed during a traffic stop in Englewood. Why? No license, registration, or proof of insurance for me, and I refused to pay the tow fees or any dollars brought about by the charges. 5 days in jail? Fine. Keep me. House me. Feed me. Keep the car, Bob. I will NEVER give one dollar to that district. Not one.

My professional life never developed via traditional means, and I continue to be labeled some 18 years later. While I did enjoy 7 years as a Cherry Creek educator, the incident still burns.

Now that the world is watching the district with tabloid interest, let us dial that lense in further.

Something is rotten, and a foul stench creeps from the land off Potomac Avenue.

NOT ONE NICKLE. NOT ONE.

Rxoils
Rxoils

Some cops are being helped by the courts to lie about trafic stops and when it comes to court the police is clearly wrong and the judge , alows the cop to make up a story and never care about the real truth about the case. and make a non felon case a felon case so a person has to plead guilty to not have a felony record , And then the court finds out it was wrong on its report and still makes the person feel he had to plead guilty to a fake doctors priscription intoxacation that was being taken for 30 years , and all the laws were fallowed, except for a cop who made a disabled parking permit person do surbrity tests without his weel chair, or cruches , this is got out of hand for the few cops who make the courts and police look like 3rd world abusive cops.

Larry467
Larry467

this is just another example of one of many systemic evilspeople in power can run their agendas freely without being checkedits great to learn some of what is involved but what you cant see is everything that is hidden in' books and records- the system' so no one can see the real monetary motivation behind this broken system. it might be hurting tax payers and citizens, but it is benefiting some minority, you can be sure of that

Lord
Lord

This district attorney will reap what she sow's, and one day one of her familly members will be in a similar situation, and then she will know how much sadness, heartache, and misery she has caused! only because of her power trip! She's a waste of space, and she should be disbared, and God will judge her when her time comes! Shame on her? just a power trip. i bet that she cant even keep her own household in line... shes misrable!

Dennis Pauls
Dennis Pauls

“As the Defendant, I, Dennis Pauls, would like to make a brief response to you Gil and Ajfnolan, for your comments. It took me several months of staring at the ceiling in that jail cell to wrestle thru the same thought processes. All of the players in my case were indeed purely doing their jobs. My biggest problem was that Judge Volz, whom I highly respect, had no power to do much other than monitor the proceedings. It IS a legislative issue at its core. Prosecutors are SUPPOSED to try and prosecute. That is their job. But when a Judge has no authority to serve in their needed role, there is no "balance" in the "check-and-balance" system. It is the current legislation that is the underlying problem.”

Ajfnolan
Ajfnolan

The judges have NO discretion where there is a habitual criminal conviction. The sentencing is set by statute. As a criminal defense lawyer in Colorado, I've seen judges literally apologize to defendants whom they were legally required to send away for decades under the habitual crimnal laws. Carol Chambers and all of her prosecutards need to go.

Gil
Gil

What are the judges in Arapahoe county doing about this? She can file all she wants, it's the judges that decide the ultimate sentencing and if they see abuse they have the power to reprehend her and her staff for over-reaching.Don't accept plea bargains and make them go to trial if the plea bargain is unfair. That's the defendants fault for settling.

Sharpshooter
Sharpshooter

How much will Carol "Pay for Convictions, Justice Can Wait" Chambers pony up to put Pat Sullivan away for a few years? I bet he doesn't serve a sixteenth of a bitch!

McGuirk Law Group
McGuirk Law Group

I am glad to see someone reporting on what is going on in Arapahoe. How can these policies continue?

Sharpshooter
Sharpshooter

This from a prosecutor that pays for convictions. Wonder how much $$ she has invested in the privately run prisons in Colorado, particularly her own district? Regardless, when I saw the title, I thought it was a Carol Chambers biography!

calhounp
calhounp

I'd like to publish some of the comments posted here in our print Letters to the editor section.

If you're willing to let your comment be published with your full name, or would like to submit a different version for publication, e-mail me at patricia.calhoun@westword.com.

RyanJohnSmith
RyanJohnSmith

I can't believe the dude represented himself. That's awesome.

Shocker
Shocker

I would love to hear Mrs. Paul's version of events since I only heard the played down version from a previously convicted felon. I applaud Carol for going out and sticking it to bad guys. Just because you are out commiting "non-violent" crimes doesn't mean that there aren't any victims to these crimes. I don't want to hear that drugs are a victimless crime...because the majority of robberies and burglaries that occur are because some dopehead needs money or things to buy more drugs or pay off debts! Robberies and burglaries all have victims. Good for Carol...I think more DA's need to have the stones to go after all these people that continue to commit crimes. Apparently the rehabilitation process didn't work after the first two or three felony convictions/stays in jail or prison. The hell with them...lock them up! If you don't want to go to jail or prison...stop committing crimes. Sounds simple to me!

Glenn (www.MTOlaw.com)
Glenn (www.MTOlaw.com)

No prosecutor ever got elected on the platform that he or she was soft on crime. There's very little downside for a prosecutor to act like this, and possibly some upside by trumpeting how "tough" she is on crime.

nlcatter
nlcatter

I was on a jury that found one not guilty of violating restraining order for we could not figure out what he had done.

I would believe that Chambers cheats on her income tax return. she wasted our tax dollars,

48 years vs time served! amazing

nlcatter
nlcatter

GOPers wasting tax money AGAIN!

stop the nuts
stop the nuts

Our justice system at its finest. This is an all to common occurrence in todays court rooms. Big headed DA's that are trying to make a name for them self by being "tough" on all crime. Paul did what a dim witted DA like this hates most, hold out for the jury. In a case that was so simple as this, a jury would never agree with the prosecutors, and rightfully like any person with a brain would do. I give Paul two thumbs up for standing up to such d-bags in our justice system. By not falling for their scare tactics you won Paul. The next win for you will be when you dont have to pay the extradition cost. The Arap-a-holes DAs office decided to pick you up for something so petty, they will be footing the bill. Hopefully Chambers will be in Paul's position shortly and realize just how pathetic her office is.........

levi0824
levi0824

Childhood best friend and he had similar, since we do not get married is good! We bought a house together, take turns cooking, nobody wants to play long ball! Youth should be a sound that time, "Well." Later, friends get married, he went to gifts. Friends patting his shoulder: "You get married early! So some people tell you to go home for dinner." His laugh, have long been remembered every kick the ball left him a bowl of noodles, but now that person, married.The morning. Bus sped past his smile pick up the phone: "My dear, I overslept and missed the bus today, a." Noon. He came out from the flower, sweet smile again playing phone: "My dear, today is your birthday, I look at you?" Afternoon. Gravestone, he looked frozen in black and white photo in the handsome boy, red-eyes and a smile: "My dear, I really want you." Birds across the sky, no trace. http://www.cheapmoncler2011out...

RyanJohnSmith
RyanJohnSmith

How does one get a felony DUI without killing or injuring someone ?

RyanJohnSmith
RyanJohnSmith

She pays her attorney's for conviction. Convict at any cost !

So glad this fascist is going to be out of the public eye and spending more time cruising on her hog and making trips to Sturgis.

Mike
Mike

These Prosecutors don't give a shit about justice! Just the fucking numbers! What a waste of resources, and a HORRIBLE way to ruin a life! Phuck Arapaho county DA!

Rahl
Rahl

Disgusting, this bitch roils my blood, she has ruined and taken lives, and someone should take hers as well,an eye for an eye.....I grew up in the juvenile detention system and was smart enough to not wind up in prison, but the system is set up to make people fail, and private industry (prisons, guards, etc...) is directly involved in public justice, their corporate interests and power plays like the DA's feed a broken system that heals no one and increases crime rather than rehabilitating.

wrldtraveler38
wrldtraveler38

@Dennis Pauls I have a pending trial in front of Judge Volz.

Concerned
Concerned

And I would agree with you Mr. Pauls. I applaud your bravery for taking the risk and standing up for what you believe was right. The state's DA's have asked for statutes that in many cases there is no legitmate defense against. Any law that does permit it to be questioned in court is a bad law. These changes in statutues in many cases serve no further pupose than to coerce guilty pleas out of defendants, avoid trials and boost the DA's conviction record. This is all about politics and nothing about justice. The citizens of this state should be made aware of this before misunderstandings of these laws victimize even more people. Anyone could fall prey to this and face this kind of nightmare.

Lilypod301
Lilypod301

Your definition of a "bad guy" is certainly very different than mine, Shocker. I have sympathy for those who fall victim to their addictions. I also have sympathy for those who become the victims of an addict's detrimental actions. However, our current judicial system does not serve up a heaping plate of rehabilitation, so pointing to an imaginary fix doesn't make logical sense. This story -- a story of bullying, over-inflation, crusading, and system-draining enrages me. The "bad guy" here is Carol Chambers, and I would like to see this approach to non-violent crimes stop.

Mike
Mike

Locking someone up for a crime like this ISN'T "rehabilitation" It's a complete abuse, and misuse of the system for political gain!

wcbaird
wcbaird

robbery & burglary = completely different crimes than drug possession.

AlanPrendergast
AlanPrendergast

Ryan,In some jurisdictions a DUI is automatically a felony if it's a second or third offense, even if it didn't result in injury.

 
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