THE POWERS OF PERSUASION
Doug Shadoan's weenie-wagging hoochie-coochie, which he performed last August 17 while clad in a black dress and wig in front of his second-story Edgewater apartment window, earned him a $275 fine and a thirty-day suspended jail sentence for public indecency. Because he was already on probation for a Peeping Tom incident, the conviction should have resulted in a probation revocation hearing and possible jail term.
But Shadoan's conviction mysteriously disappeared in October, and with it the need for a probation hearing. And some Edgewater residents believe that Shadoan slipped off the hook with the aid of local gadfly Pauline York and her political pal, municipal judge Ben Klein, the new vice-chairman of the powerful Regional Transportation District.
York is a precinct captain for the Jeffco Democratic party and a person who several present and former city officials say is influential in local politics in Edgewater. She is a constant presence at council meetings, where she often makes comments for the record, either to congratulate the city or to complain about zoning or personnel matters. She has no official position with the city, but she recently signed on as a court volunteer, arranging community service for defendants convicted of petty crimes.
She also has been an outspoken supporter of Klein, who was hired as the city's judge two years ago. York, some residents note, personally collected well over half the signatures needed to put fellow Democrat Klein on the November ballot for the RTD board.
Klein, no stranger to controversy ("Life on the Edge," March 23), denies pulling any strings at York's request. He says these latest allegations against him stem from a personal vendetta aimed at York and himself by other residents of Edgewater, a municipality of 4,700 sandwiched between Denver, Lakewood and Wheat Ridge just west of Sheridan Boulevard. As for York, the judge maintains, "I can truthfully say she has not influenced me in any way." Nor, he says, has she ever tried to. Although he says that he knows she is active in Democratic politics (as is he) and that he sometimes uses her to translate in court for Hispanic defendants, "she has no more clout with me than any other person would. She has no more clout with me than the man in the moon. Nobody is going to tell me what to do, and if that's a condition of the job, I don't want it."
And yes, he says, "Pauline carried petitions around, but she cannot walk into my court and say, `This has got to be done.' That's all baloney."
York, who works as a process server, isn't saying anything--other than to direct questions to her attorney. "I don't think she's ever done that," York's attorney Fred Myers says of the accusations, and chuckles. "I doubt she has that kind of authority. But I won't let her comment."
Klein, a once-promising attorney and star in local Democratic politics, was a state lawmaker for eighteen years before his health and foibles caught up with him. In 1970 he was accused of falsifying billings, manufacturing evidence, attempted bribery and giving false testimony under oath. His license to practice law was suspended for sixteen years.
Then Klein missed the entire 1973 legislative session--due, he said, to mental illness. That spring he was indicted on charges of federal income-tax evasion. He was found guilty, but the judge who initially sentenced him to five years in prison later reduced the penalty to five years' probation.
In 1988 the state supreme court allowed Klein to get his law license back. Two years later Klein won election to the RTD board. And in 1992 he was appointed judge of Edgewater. Last summer, when Klein was seeking re-election to the RTD board, Pauline York came to his aid. Klein says he can't remember if he asked York to carry petitions or if she volunteered. Klein needed 250 valid signatures to get his name on the ballot. York, who was one of five petitioners (including Klein), collected 201 signatures. Klein himself collected only 31.
In August York read a letter to the Edgewater City Council, stating that Klein had asked her to put it into the record. Klein, the letter said, wanted to thank the citizens of Edgewater for their support and their signatures on his petition. Klein says he doesn't recall asking York to present the letter at the meeting.
Klein ran unopposed and was re-elected to the board in November, and his new term already has been fraught with controversy. He is among a rising tide of RTD members who are said to be poised to scuttle expansion plans for light rail, a stance that has raised the ire of other politicians.
Until the Shadoan case, most of Klein's rulings as Edgewater judge have passed without notice or comment--except for two. The first occurred after the arrest of Denver antique dealer Michelle "Myke" Johnson and her daughter for allegedly shoplifting a $7.50 can of paint from the Builder's Square store in Edgewater. The women claimed they had forgotten to pay for the paint and then got roughed up by Edgewater cops. The women demanded a jury trial on the shoplifting charges--the city's first jury trial in two years--but lost. They also lost their appeal, which included the claim that Klein had refused to allow as evidence pictures of Johnson's battered face. They have since filed notice of intent to sue the city.
Klein's second controversial case involved Tim Young, then 29, who was accused of swearing at an elderly neighbor and harassing a mailman. After a January 4, 1994, hearing, Klein sentenced Young to nine months in jail and handed down a $2,050 fine. Young's mother, Grace, waged a bitter, months-long campaign to free her son, during the course of which she raised hell with the city council and with Klein. Young went head-to-head with York at council meetings about the case.
Myke Johnson and Grace Young did not know each other during their court cases. But they have since met, become friends and compared notes. And both women claim that after the convictions, Pauline York offered to intervene with the court on their behalf.
Not long after Johnson and her daughter were arrested, Johnson says, two of her friends--including Marie Vellechek, who says she's also a friend of York's--told her that she should seek York's help on the matter. "I didn't know who [York] was," Johnson says, "but I assumed she was on city council. I hired an attorney instead."
When Johnson and her daughter were convicted, she says, "Marie came up to me and said, `I told you that you should have called Pauline.'"
After Vellechek's admonishment (which Vellechek confirms), Johnson says she did phone York. "Basically," says Johnson, "she told me that I should have come to her six months earlier and that she could have taken care of it then. She told me, `I'm not afraid of cops, and I could have taken care of this, and you would never have had to hire an attorney.'
"At that point, I still did not know who the woman was. She said, `Let me see what I can do.' And she said she would try to get the fine reduced or delayed. She said she would try to do something. She also said that I would have to promise not to sue the city, because she works closely with the city.
"At that time, I said, `I can't promise you anything.' I said, `They left me no choice [but to sue].' And that's how it ended."
Grace Young's battle with Edgewater began three months after the Johnson case, when Klein threw Tim Young in jail. Grace Young's letter-writing campaigns and complaints seemed to go nowhere. But then, at the end of March or the beginning of April, she says, Pauline York pulled up in front of her house. "She said, `I just came out to tell you that Timmy is going to be released Tuesday,'" Young says. "She said, `I went to bat for you because I understand your position as a mother, and he's going to be released with restrictions.' And sure enough, he was." (Klein also reduced Young's fine from $2,050 to $500.)
Young says she is not convinced that York pulled the strings for her son's release--she thinks her own efforts might have been more influential--but York's words did give her pause. Months later, after she tried unsuccessfully to have Klein dismiss her son's fine altogether, Young says, "I thought I'd go to the powers that be. So I took it to Pauline. I asked her if she thought she could get the fine dismissed. She said, `How about half?' And I said, `No way, Pauline.' I said, `He's been punished enough, in my opinion.' And she said, `Well, I'll see what I can do.' She said she would ask [Klein] to dismiss it, and she told me that I shouldn't show up in court, because I antagonized the judge. And she said Tim didn't have to be there, either.
"Maybe three weeks later, she said it was taken care of."
On January 17 Klein dismissed the remaining $500 fine in open court with little comment. "Due to the extenuating circumstances and the situation that he might have lost a substantial amount of money while in jail," Klein said, "and because he's probably learned his lesson, I order and decree the remaining fine hereby suspended." The prosecutor was not asked for comment. And neither of the Youngs were present.
Klein says he dismissed the fine because "I reviewed the file and thought about the time he'd served. I did that because I used my discretion and I believed there was some merit in doing it." York, he says, never discussed the Young case with him. Besides, he adds, he believes the two women are at loggerheads. "It would seem to me that they're probably antagonistic to each other," he says. "Why would Pauline say she'd help Grace Young?" (To that, Young has a ready answer: "I think Pauline enjoys the fact that she does exert some power. She does kind of go for the underdog.")
Klein claims, too, that the Youngs have been out to get him for the past year. "They've consistently beaten me up," he says, "and they tried to blackmail me to drop the original sentence." Klein says Young threatened to publicize his felony record unless he freed her son last year. (Klein has never denied his record. Young denies any "blackmail" attempt, but she did point out to Westword last year that Klein was a judge with a felony record.) Klein also says that the recent allegations about "fixing tickets" arose just as Young's daughter was to appear in court on a traffic charge.
"This whole damn thing always crops up when Grace Young has something coming up," he says. "I'm going to disqualify myself in her daughter's case. It's always some darn thing for subterfuge."
Meanwhile, Doug Shadoan had nothing to hide--or so his neighbors claimed. According to police documents, the 45-year-old Shadoan was spotted by several people on the night of last August 17, parading in front of his living-room window while wearing only a bra and red panties. An Edgewater cop let Shadoan off with a warning, telling him to keep his curtains closed when clad only in his undergarments. The officer later noted in his report that Shadoan had been wearing eye shadow and red lipstick. (Shadoan disputed that, noting in court documents that "I don't own any makeup, and I haven't had any for at least the last five years.")
An officer was called to Shadoan's apartment again only a couple of hours later, shortly before midnight, when a neighbor complained that Shadoan was standing in his open doorway wearing only a bra and panties. The woman said Shadoan had done this several times before, but only when someone walked down the common hallway of the complex. According to a second officer at the scene, other witnesses said they had seen Shadoan wearing a black dress and wig and that Shadoan had shouted at them, made obscene gestures with both hands, lifted up his dress and exposed his genitals.
The officers issued Shadoan a summons for disorderly conduct.
On September 6, Shadoan, who had negotiated a plea bargain, entered a plea of no contest to a charge of public indecency. In return, the disorderly-conduct charge was dismissed. Judge Ron Miller of Broomfield--sitting in for Klein, who had taken the day off for Rosh Hashanah--gave Shadoan a fine and a suspended jail sentence.
The incident might not have been a big deal, except that Shadoan was already on probation for third-degree sexual assault. On October 3, 1993, Shadoan was issued a summons by Lakewood police for "looking at the intimate parts" of a 22-year-old woman "without her consent, in a place where the victim had a reasonable expectation of privacy." According to Lakewood police spokeswoman Lynn Kimbrough, Shadoan--clad in a wig and wearing makeup--peered through the woman's apartment window while she was showering. Shadoan pled guilty in Jefferson County Court to that charge and was sentenced to two years' probation and a ninety-day suspended jail term and ordered to pay $118 in court costs. He was placed in a private probation program called Intervention.
Intervention requires that it be notified when a client is charged with a new violation. And in September, Edgewater court clerk Cheryl Lang sent a notarized letter to Intervention informing it of Shadoan's conviction in the public indecency case.
Intervention officials then notified the Jefferson County court, which set a probation revocation hearing for Shadoan in mid-October.
Shadoan's Edgewater arrest and the possibility that his probation might be revoked as a result reportedly angered Shadoan's boss, Roy Pollack, owner of the 25th Avenue Cafe, where Shadoan was employed as a cook. "Roy threw a fit," says Grace Young, who frequents the eatery.
A while later, according to Young, Pollack told her that he'd gotten York on the case and that she'd gotten the fine and charge dismissed.
In fact, Shadoan's troubles did vanish on October 5, thanks to a one-sentence note to his Jeffco probation supervisor, Larry Stremel. The letter, on City of Edgewater letterhead, was signed by court clerk Cheryl Lang "for Ben Klein." (Lang says she sent the letter following a telephone request from Klein and signed his name because he wasn't present.) The letter read simply, "This is to certify that all charges in the above-captioned case have been dismissed." Intervention officials then notified the county court that there was no need for a revocation hearing.
That's how things remained until January 19, two days after Westword began looking into the case. But Klein says Westword's inquiries had nothing to do with his decision to write a new letter to Intervention on January 19 stating that Shadoan had, in fact, been convicted. Klein says he recognized what he calls his "error" while looking over five cases, including Shadoan's, in which fines had not been paid. At that point, Klein says, he realized that he'd sent Intervention a letter stating incorrectly that all charges against Shadoan had been dismissed. "I am totally responsible for [the charge] being overlooked," he says now.
Klein claims he had the October 5 letter sent to Intervention because "apparently somebody called me and asked about it. It's possible somebody from Intervention called and said, `Is it true that John Smith has been convicted?' That may or may not be the case. We write letters to people all the time who are inquiring about cases."
But Larry Stremel and Intervention program director Cheryl Marshall say they did not request information from Edgewater about Shadoan.
Klein is now taking a hard-line stance on the Shadoan case. "His fine has to be paid," Klein says of the cook. "I presume he'll have his probation revoked. But that's his problem."
Marshall confirms that Shadoan probably will have to go back to Jefferson County Court for a revocation hearing. Shadoan's case "is the first in the program's ten-year history" in which a court reversed itself in such a manner, Marshall adds.
Shadoan and Pollack won't discuss the case. "I've learned," Pollack says. "I like to keep my mouth shut." Shadoan's response is a terse "no comment."
Marie Vellechek, however, won't stop talking about her friend Pauline York. "One time about a year ago, I got stopped by police in Edgewater," Vellechek recalls. "I wasn't doing anything. The officer asked for my registration. I immediately said, `I'm going to call Pauline York.' He threw my driver's license back in my face and said, `Get the hell out of here.'
"If you ever get stopped in Edgewater, ask for Pauline York," Vellechek says. She pauses and adds, "I can't say too much else, in case I need her.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Westword's biggest stories.