"Who would you rather have protecting you? The man who unleashed a serial killer on Colorado, or Stan Garnett -- the man who put the killer away?"
That tag line from a new attack ad in the Colorado Attorney General's race puts aside any doubt that we're entering the campaign's critical smear-and-be-smeared phase. It's time to get all Willie Horton on your opponent. Last one into the mudwallow is a stone cold loser.
Boulder District Attorney Garnett's broadside is directed at incumbent John Suthers, who's not in the habit of introducing himself at cocktail parties as "the man who unleashed a serial killer on Colorado."
There are legitimate questions to be asked about the deal then-US Attorney Suthers approved back in 2002 that released Scott Kimball from prison to work as an FBI informant, particularly since recently unsealed documents suggest a greater involvement of Suthers's office in the Kimball case than was previously acknowledged.
Kimball went on to be linked to at least four murders -- and, depending on who you believe, is still under investigation in several other disappearances of young women. Suthers has insisted he had a minimal role in the fiasco, and it seems clear the FBI has a lot to explain about its lax handling of their sketchy snitch. Yet several top prosecutors from Suthers' office also were involved in meetings or court hearings on Kimball's behalf, contradicting the AG's assertion that the matter "did not go to the higher levels of the U.S. Attorney's office."
Prosecutors promised a federal judge to keep Kimball on a "very tight leash." Instead, they unwittingly "unleashed" him to con his handlers and kill women. But do those circumstances justify the Hortonesque tone of Garnett's ad? (See the video in its entirety below).
Other low blows are being slung in various local races that, in other years, would hardly seem to merit such nastiness. I've written before about the oddly contentious coroner races in Colorado this year -- especially the slugfest in Arapahoe County that pits incumbent Michael Dobersen, a veteran forensic pathologist, against attorney Jay Ledbetter.
It's Rambo versus Quincy. Dobersen has a national reputation in his field; Ledbetter has raised some fair-game questions about outside work Dobersen performs and the degree to which the county is compensated for his efforts. But he also has proven to be a practitioner of what James Ellroy would call "insinnuendo" -- stuff that isn't necessarily false but can be terribly misleading, like some statements on his website about his military career that imply he's an Air Force Academy graduate (he's not) and saw front-line duty in Vietnam and Desert Storm (he didn't).
Ledbetter has also been compelled to retract a claim that Dobersen's staff "manipulates evidence in ongoing criminal trials," altering autopsy results "to convict an innocent person of crime rather than admit an error." That's a pretty serious allegation -- one that the former prosecutor made in campaign broadsides (and in e-mails to Westword) a month ago and then withdrew two weeks later, saying that he'd received bad information regarding a particular case.
Dobersen has filed a complaintwith AG Suthers ("the man who" -- ah, never mind) over the smear and has indicated he might also take the matter up with the state's Office of Attorney Regulation. If nothing else, the incident doesn't exactly attest to the challenger's talents as a crack death investigator.
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Still four weeks of insinnuendo-slinging to go until election day. Time to keep your head down and an ample supply of wet-naps for quick cleanups.
Page down to see the Garnett ad about Kimball: