Two years ago, former Arapahoe County sheriff Pat Sullivan managed to chisel down a pack of squalid allegations involving methamphetamine, trading drugs for sex, exploiting a mentally challenged individual and even a sort-of admission of sex with minors into the world's sweetest plea deal, copping to one felony and one misdemeanor, in exchange for a mere thirty days in jail and probation.
At the time, we noted that a fellow named Donny Andrews had particular reason to be outraged at the break that Sullivan got.
Back in the late 1980s, Arapahoe County prosecutors were so keen on throwing the book at Andrews, a 21-year-old drug addict who committed a series of burglaries to support his coke habit, that they pushed to stack his sentences consecutively, sending him away for a mind-boggling 81 years. And leading the charge was a lawman named Pat Sullivan.
A quarter-century later, Andrews is still doing time. As noted in my 2009 feature "The Quality of Mercy," he's been clean and sober for decades. Yet he's watched rapists, murderers and child molesters cycle out of the system while he still sits there, serving an absurdly long sentence for a series of nonviolent crimes.
"I had to seek rehabilitation on my own," Andrews wrote in a letter to Westword in 2012. "I am now a 44-year-old man who has aged out of crime, overcome drug addiction, and survived many years of the abuses that prison has to offer."
Clearly, the war on drugs has been a selective one. Just ask Andrews -- or Sullivan, for that matter. Sullivan's story isn't all that different from that of many addicts, a downward spiral of drug abuse and desperation fueling criminal behavior. But he hasn't had to face the same kind of draconian sentencing scheme that was imposed on Andrews by then-district attorney Jim Peters at the height of the drug-war frenzy.
The disgraced sheriff has apparently violated his probation repeatedly by using alcohol and meth and faces a sentencing hearing on June 19; he could be going back to the jail that once bore his name, but only for a year or eighteen months. That's just a brief vacation compared to what Andrews has been through.
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"I could go on and on about numerous people I know who went to jail or prison for one hot UA," Andrews wrote to us this week. "Sullivan has reportedly failed 5 UAs, refused to report for tests and left the state without permission. I guess some people really are above the law."
Andrews and his family are currently working on an appeal to Governor John Hickenlooper to commute his sentence. In conjunction with that, check out the video below, featuring his niece Kayla talking about her uncle being imprisoned during her entire lifetime.
More from our Follow That Story archive circa May 15: "Pat Sullivan, disgraced sheriff, could get 12-18 months after probation violations for meth."