Cory Voorhis hearing, day two: Fired ICE says he wanted to expose "obstruction of justice"
In the second day and final day of a hearing before a federal administrative judge (read day one coverage here), Cory Voorhis, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent who was fired for leaking information from restricted databases to Bob Beauprez's 2006 gubernatorial campaign, says he sought to expose "potentially illegal" plea-down policies handed out to illegal immigrants by the Denver District Attorney's office.
But the issue Voorhis said was the real injustice has been buried in a years-long saga that's been riddled with controversies, which some see as contributing to Governor Bill Ritter's decision to not run for re-election and his Chief of Staff Stephanie Villafuerte's withdrawal from consideration for a vacant U.S. Attorney spot.
Voorhis testified on Thursday that his controversial leaks and the subsequent uproar in the media and the legal community were "absolutely not" politically motivated, even though he handed a potentially crippling "smoking gun" to a political campaign in the heat of election season.
"I certainly know more now than I did then," Voorhis said of his decision in September 2006 to provide a campaign staffer for then-Congressman Beauprez with proof that Ritter, during his time as Denver DA, had routinely given criminal immigrants plea deals -- charging them with agricultural trespass -- to keep them from being deported.
"These pleas were started to avoid deportation and were an obstruction of justice," Voorhis said. "These were policies and practices that were not available to U.S. citizens."
He also maintained that "the problem morphed and got so bad that U.S. citizens were claiming to be aliens to get deals."
In his fight to reclaim his job, Voorhis spent more than four hours walking the court and dozens of attendees through events that placed him at the epicenter of an investigation and trial (he was acquitted of criminal wrongdoing in 2008).
Voorhis cited one "egregious" case of an illegal immigrant who pleaded down under Ritter's time as DA and went on to sexually assault a child in California. At the same time, Ritter, in his campaign, had derided ICE and Washington for not cracking down on criminal aliens, Voorhis said. That prompted him to disclose sensitive information to Beauprez.
"I was concerned that the statements by Bill Rittter were shielding and misrepresenting that policy," said Voorhis who called Ritter's stance on immigration at the time "absolute laughable lies."
The Beauprez ticket ran full steam with the leaks from restricted databases in a series of attack ads aimed at Ritter, but the ads ultimately backfired on the failed campaign and Voorhis.
Now, the former ICE agent says he should not have been fired because he provided information to a member of congress. But what he says he didn't know then is hurting him now: John Marshall, the Beauprez staffer to whom Voorhis had delivered information, was not a congressional staff member.
Rather, Marshall was a campaign manager, and in the world of information leaks from federal employees, who are prohibited from working with political campaigns, that's a big difference -- and its a distinction ICE attorney Robert Erbe pressed hard Thursday.
ICE agents are allowed, and even encouraged, to share information with legislators and their staff, but not their campaign staffs. Voorhis said in his testimony that despite meeting Marshall at a campaign headquarters, he did not know the difference at the time and maintained that he only shared information that was readily available to the public.
Voorhis also said he had the after-the-fact blessing of his ICE supervisor, Tony Rouco, who stumbled into controversy of his own after he "willfully gave false testimony under oath" during the criminal trial, according to a report by the agency's own Office of Professional Responsibility.
Rouco said in day one of the hearing that he never condoned the leaks and didn't coach Voorhis in the buildup to the criminal investigation. In his testimony, Voorhis insisted that Rouco "had been working for years to expose that policy."
"Tony was really reassuring to me that -- you know -- everything is going to be alright," Voorhis said.
Rouco's testimony was also called into question after Voorhis' attorney, Tom Muther, received approval to bring on a fresh witness with evidence that contradicted Rouco's previous testimony.
Anthony Divirgilio, a private investigator hired by Voorhis' defense in the criminal trial, testified Thursday that he had a lengthy conversation with Rouco in 2008, which the ICE group supervisor denied ever happened under oath. In a six-page transcription of Divirgilio's interview submitted to the court, Rouco allegedly admitted to knowing that Voorhis had leaked documents to the Beauprez campaign.
A closing brief for both legal teams is pending after the two-day hearing. Merit Systems Protection Board Judge Jeremiah Cassidy is expected to make a ruling on whether or not Voorhis will get his job back within thirty to 45 days.
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