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Of Mice and Men

Mike Gorman

When Colorado First Assistant Attorney General David Kaye was handcuffed and arrested three weeks ago for breaking into his ex-wife's garage, allegedly injuring her in the process, he was charged with felony trespass and misdemeanor criminal mischief. When his ex-wife, Irene, was handcuffed and arrested after she kicked his truck during the same incident, she was also charged with misdemeanor criminal mischief.

But so far, she's gotten the worst of it. That's because a Jefferson County sheriff's deputy checked a little box on Irene Kaye's arrest summons noting that hers was a domestic-violence case, setting in motion a host of repercussions under Colorado's stringent domestic-violence statutes. But David Kaye's wasn't treated as a domestic-violence case -- not initially. And he never had any dead mice left on his doorstep, either.

Irene and David Kaye were married in October 1990. At the time, Irene was living in a 4,500-square-foot home near Golden that she'd owned with her second husband. David, her third husband, had worked in the attorney general's office since 1987, mostly as a contracts specialist advising state agencies; he was 32, ten years younger than his new wife.

The Kayes separated in March 1999, after Irene accused David of having an affair with a colleague. But the couple didn't file for divorce until July, a few days after Irene Kaye complained to the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office that she had been receiving harassing telephone calls, including one in which a female voice said, "Let him go, bitch." According to the sheriff's report, the calls began in April, continued through May, ended abruptly at the beginning of June and then began again June 21. A week later, Irene told a deputy that she'd found a bag with a dead mouse in it on her front steps. The next day, she'd found another bag "with what appeared to contain animal feces." In October she reported that someone had entered her backyard and thrown a rock at a rear window. She told the deputy who responded that she believed her "estranged husband's new girlfriend" was responsible and accused the girlfriend of "ongoing harassment...and threats." (The girlfriend's name was blacked out in the report; according to sheriff's spokesman Steve Davis, that's because no one was charged in the incident.)

Needless to say, the divorce proceedings were anything but amicable. Both sides contended that the other wasn't cooperating. Irene was affronted by David's continuing relationship with the girlfriend (his accounting of credit-card expenditures noted the purchase of a number of "gifts" for one J. Wilkerson, as well as ballroom-dancing lessons and tickets to see Deepak Chopra), and she balked at his desire to sell the house -- appraised at about $365,000 -- and take a share of the profits, minus the $83,000 she'd put into it before the marriage (a figure he'd agreed to in a 1992 post-nuptial agreement).

David was angry that she hadn't responded to the only offer they'd received on the house and that they'd lost the potential sale. He wanted his own appraiser to estimate the value of their mutually held property inside the house, and complained that Irene wouldn't let the appraiser in. He also accused her of writing checks to herself from their joint account and trying to hide other assets. And he argued that she'd purposefully remained "unemployed or underemployed" in an effort to get support from him, even though his expert had determined that the private investigation firm she'd started seven years earlier could earn her at least $45,000 a year.

Finally, on April 19, a judge pronounced the Kayes divorced, declaring Irene the sole owner of the house and stipulating that David would have to arrange for a third party, a moving company, to pick up the belongings he still had inside: two bookcases and a box of personal effects. David had to take the stand and swear that he understood the arrangement, says Dennis Lacerte, Irene's attorney. So Lacerte was "flabbergasted" by what occurred two weeks later.

David Kaye had arranged for a moving company to pick up his belongings at 10 a.m. on May 6. The movers were late, so Irene stuck a note on the door saying they would have to reschedule. But then, neighbors say, David came "roaring" down the block in his truck, which he parked askew in front of the house. He picked up a log and smashed the window of a side door in the garage, then unlocked the door and entered the structure.

When she heard the sound of breaking glass, Irene told a Jeffco deputy, she ran to the garage in her bare feet. There she confronted her ex-husband, who had opened the main garage door for the movers. She told the deputy that she tried to push her husband out of the garage and "may have slapped him." She also claimed to have been pushed up against one of the bookcases, and to have cut her feet on the broken glass.

Although his ex-wife's car was in the garage, David Kaye told another deputy that he thought no one was at home when he broke in. Irene "assaulted" him by slapping him, and also went over to his truck and kicked a small dent in the passenger door. He was only trying to get his property as "court-ordered," he said.

Both David and Irene Kaye called the cops. Neighbors say the two were screaming at each other, each claiming to be in the legal right. Both were arrested and taken to the Jefferson County jail -- Irene Kaye for criminal mischief causing less than $100 in damage (kicking the truck door), and David Kaye for first-degree felony trespassing and criminal mischief causing less than $100 damage (breaking the window).

However, only Irene Kaye was cited under Colorado's domestic-violence statutes, which prohibit damaging the property of a current or former significant other or family member. Those statutes also call for anyone arrested with the domestic-violence kicker attached to be jailed; in most jurisdictions, including Jefferson County, the accused can't get out of jail until he or she has seen a judge. Since that typically happens the next morning, the theory is that the accused has had time to cool off and the victim time to find a safe place to go. But since Irene Kaye was arrested on a Saturday, she had to wait until Monday to see a judge.

So while David Kaye was released a few hours later, Irene waited behind bars, in tears and a jail jumpsuit, Lacerte says. "She was a bit more than distraught," he recalls. "This was a 51-year-old mommy from the suburbs who's mortified if she gets a speeding ticket. Going to jail was something of a culture shock."

Irene Kaye was finally released on Monday after signing a mandatory restraining order prohibiting her from any contact with her ex-spouse. Her daughter, Rebecca, then took her to a medical clinic, where she was treated for cuts on her feet and a bruise on her leg.

Lacerte wonders why David Kaye wasn't charged with domestic violence at the outset; he also thinks his client's injuries made a case for assault. "I was just looking at the photographs of her injuries this morning," he says. "They must have 500 pending cases of third-degree assault [at the Jeffco DA's office] that don't have that extent of bruising or cuts...I'm shocked that an attorney, two weeks after being told by a judge that's the one place he was not supposed to be, on May 6 was at that house."

At the residence listed by David Kaye on his arrest summons, J. Wilkerson -- Joanna Wilkerson, an assistant attorney general from 1991 until March 1999 -- answered the phone. She declined comment other than to say that Irene Kaye "has slandered me in every statement... and I have not done one single thing to her."

David Kaye also refuses to talk about the case. "You can tell by its nature that this is very serious," he says, adding that it would be "inappropriate" to say any more.

In general, domestic-violence charges "are up to the discretion of the arresting officer and whether he thought it met statutory requirements," says sheriff's spokesman Davis, adding that the DA's office has the power to amend complaints. And that's what happened this week, when domestic violence was added to David Kaye's charges -- although he still didn't have to spend a night in jail.

Irene Kaye also declined to comment for this story, other than to say, "This has all been astounding...and the most humiliating thing I've ever been put throughI was protecting my home and myself."

If either Kay is now convicted, the domestic-violence statutes will force them into anger-management classes.

In the meantime, a restraining order has been issued by the judge stating that neither Kaye is to have any contact with the other.

David Kaye's boss, Attorney General Ken Salazar, won't comment pending disposition of the case, says spokesman Ken Lane. Salazar has championed tough domestic-violence enforcement before: He hosted a February forum on "workplace violence...that often translates from domestic violence," participated in the annual Safehouse Walk fundraiser, and backed two recent domestic-violence bills that were passed by state lawmakers and await the governor's signature.


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