Year in Review: Were Sorry, So Sorry
Okay, we could have done better. We admit that.
We lied about our age. We faked our memoirs. We called ourselves Art or Daxis and told the escort we were from Kansas City. We stole other people's identities, maxed out the credit cards and blamed the illegals. And yes, we had a little help swatting those homers and winning that bike race in France.
We stuck a dummy in our car and hit the HOV lane. We took the smoke out of the restaurants and blew it up the voters' behinds. We flashed our private parts in public and kept the public out of our very private meetings because they were behaving suspiciously. We went hunting for an exit strategy and accidentally shot our buddy in the face.
We ranted. We road-raged. We light-railed.
We denied everything. When caught red-handed, we apologized and promised to seek treatment. We renounced all our bad habits. Except the meth. Can we keep the meth?
It was that kind of year. In 2006, truth wasn't just inconvenient; it became an endangered species. This was a time of frauds, hoaxes and big lies, of rampant hypocrisy, hedonism and substance abuse -- and that's just among certain well-respected evangelical leaders. Imagine what the heathens were up to.
Thank goodness the year's almost over. Dewy, innocent 2007 is right around the corner, wide-eyed and full of wonder -- even if our cover boy, former escort Mike Jones, is already writing his memoirs. But before you bust that cork -- or that meat-cutter with the fake ID -- join us in one last, sobering look at the conniving, ill-tempered, bad-mannered, bizarre, brain-dead and bogus happenings that sent 2006 spinning into rehab.
This won't hurt at all. Honest.
THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE
A baby boy born at Presbyterian/St. Luke's Medical Center in May beat his twin brother to the breakfast table by two months. Adam Rudd was born prematurely, but doctors managed to keep twin Jason in the womb another nine weeks through a "delayed interval delivery" process. "Hopefully, they get along," said Darren Rudd, the twins' father.
In April, 1,200 runners in the Platte River Trail Half Marathon had to detour when the body of a male transient was discovered along the bike path near Sixth Avenue, a few blocks from the finish line. The runners were redirected through the neighboring industrial zone while police brought out the yellow tape.
Air Force Space Command officials announced in November that widespread malfunctions in remote-control garage-door openers from the Broadmoor to Widefield were probably caused by a new "radio transmitter" (wink, wink) being tested in the top-secret underground command center inside Cheyenne Mountain. Seven years ago, a similar blitz on garage doors on the south side of Colorado Springs was blamed on an FM tower on top of the mountain. Sure, and those whizzing silver saucers are just weather balloons, right?
In October, a seventeen-month-old toddler in Erie drank enough wine to raise his blood alcohol content to .195, more than double the legal limit for adult drivers. A few weeks later, a two-month-old girl was hospitalized in Colorado Springs with a chart-blasting .364 blood alcohol reading. The girl's mother, Sarah Smith, told reporters she'd mixed a three-ounce formula with liquid from her boyfriend's water bottle. The liquid turned out to be vodka.
In July, former Enron chairman Ken Lay died of an apparent heart attack in Aspen at the age of 64, three months before he was to be sentenced to up to thirty years in prison for securities fraud. Since he died prior to exhausting his appeals, his conviction was abated, and the civil suits filed against him can no longer seek punitive damages. All of which led to a wave of Internet speculation that Lay had faked his death. "Conspiracy theories tend to pop up when there is dissatisfaction and disappointment," wrote CNN's Allen Wastler. "And that's the case here."
DO AS I SAY, NOT AS I DO
Ignorance of the law is no excuse. So what's your excuse when you are the law? Denver Chief of Police Gerry Whitman didn't really have one when photo radar nailed him going ten miles per hour over the speed limit; he still didn't have one when the incident became public last spring. We've all been there, Ger.
A ride-along with the chief, even on a bad day, beats one with Denver County Judge Johnny Barajas. After his vehicle rear-ended a pickup truck at 26th and Federal in November, hizzoner was cited for driving without proof of insurance, following too closely, careless driving -- and driving under the influence. Barajas, who regularly metes out punishment to drunk drivers in his courtroom, told a 7 News reporter that he's stopped hearing traffic cases and will enter an alcohol treatment program.
In Adams County, Judge Thomas Ensor is still on the bench but watching his tongue, after some banter with a prosecutor touched off protests from domestic-violence activists. Hearing that the prosecutor's wife had prevented a suspected drunk driver from escaping by blocking his car with hers, the judge reportedly said, "If she did, you ought to spank her. That was silly." Other observers thought the judge said "smack," not "spank." By the time reporters sought comment, Ensor was no longer talking smack. Or spank. Or whatever.
Something more than a spanking might be in store for Steven McQuay, who supervised door-to-door sales for Positive Teens, an alleged save-our-youth program. In September, McQuay, who has a lengthy record of driving infractions, hauled eleven children from Denver to Fort Collins in a van that seats five, police say. He was arrested on child-abuse charges after residents complained of rain-soaked kids wandering unsupervised, selling candles. At the time of his arrest, McQuay told Fort Collins officers he was still missing two kids. They were later found shivering on a curb.
Journalists have their own iron-clad laws. The first and second commandment? Spell the name right, get the title right. Imagine the displeasure, then, of William Dean Singleton, savior of the Denver Post and CEO of the fourth-largest newspaper empire in the land. Not only did the family Christmas card last year contain a glaring typo ("The Singleton's"), but in January the Post had to print a correction after misreporting his position with the company.
GENIUS DOES WHAT IT MUST
A burglar broke into the home of a Denver police officer in October. The resident was at home. So was his bean-bag shotgun. "Good guys one, bad guys nothing," one officer said following the suspect's arrest.
In Longmont, a man was attacked in his home by a prowler with a baseball bat. The intruder then apologized; he said he was looking for a black man and must have entered the wrong house. The victim, who is white, chased the burglar outside, only to be confronted by his gun-toting partner. The pair took off, possibly to consult MapQuest.
Outside of Lochbuie, a weaving car stopped by police in July turned out to belong to Carmelo Anthony. The Nuggets star was not present. Behind the wheel was Tyler Brandon Smith, 22, a childhood friend of Anthony's. When the officer commented on the smell of "burnt marijuana" wafting from the 2005 Dodge Magnum, Smith replied that he didn't smell anything. A search turned up a bag of weed, which Smith and two passengers disowned, thereby violating the Friends of Melo Pact -- established in 2004, when Anthony was stopped by a Denver International Airport screener over a small bag of marijuana in his backpack, only to see charges dropped when another member of his posse said the pot was his.
A June wedding for a Boulder couple had to be postponed after a tussle in an Aspen hotel room led to their arrest the night before the scheduled blessed event. Police say that Ali Aghili and Marney Hurst had been drinking and that an argument broke out over who would babysit their one-year-old son while the lovebirds attended a party at a local bar. Hurst had swelling around her eye; Aghili had scratches on his face. The two were booked and released on bail with a temporary order to avoid contact with one another.
Just in time for the holidays, a Westminster man was locked out of his house and attempted to get in by the chimney. Firefighters had to extract him.
The season's cheer was also cut short for Jonathan Yeoman, who was fired earlier this month from his job taking pictures of children with Santa Claus at the Westminster Mall. Yeoman's wife, who worked with him at the mall, allegedly helped him conceal a 1992 conviction for child molestation from his employer. Although Yeoman is no longer on parole or prohibited from being around children, the couple was given the heave-ho-ho-ho.
FOUR LEGS GOOD, TWO LEGS BAAAAD
"Man is the only animal that blushes," Mark Twain wrote. "Or needs to." The dumbest animal keeps getting dumber, judging from its treatment of its fellow fauna.
Eighteen lambs exhibited at January's National Western Stock Show, including a champion that sold for $28,000, were disqualified after an investigation into livestock tampering. Tests indicated the lambs had been injected with a steroid-like irritant that causes back and hind leg muscles to become inflamed and appear more prominent. The exhibitors of the bulked-up lambs ranged in age from nine to nineteen.
In May, students at Parker's Ponderosa High School might have thought the sky was falling, but it was only Chicken Little. An apparent senior prank went seriously wrong when someone -- a future disc jockey, no doubt -- dropped 45 chicks from a balcony into the school's administrative offices. Several chicks died in the stunt; the survivors were taken to a school employee's home.
In Jefferson County, Richard Davis was sentenced to two years of probation after attacking Precious, his girlfriend's cat, with a two-foot sword. Davis's attorney contended that Davis was simply defending his girlfriend from a feral animal. Judge Christopher Munch urged Davis, who is being treated for mental-health issues, to take his medications. Precious underwent surgery and found a sword-free home.
Michael Padilla was cited on three dozen counts of animal cruelty and neglect after 36 pit bulls were discovered on the premises of his mother's home in southwest Denver. A neighbor reported that Padilla had confined the dogs in cages and a trailer and sprayed them with a garden hose. Padilla said he was unaware of Denver's ban on pit bulls and denied that his dogs were vicious. Police say one of the dogs bit off the tip of Padilla's finger shortly before they arrived on the scene; Padilla said it had gotten caught between two cages. He surrendered custody of the animals in a plea deal. The dogs were euthanized. Inexplicably, Padilla was not.
Catherine Cariaso wasn't so fortunate. Convicted of animal neglect last year after abandoning 84 Labrador retrievers in Berthoud, the 56-year-old dog breeder robbed a bank in Loveland in January and led police on a chase into Boulder County. She jumped out of her car, pointed a toy gun at officers -- and was shot dead.
RAGE FOR DUMMIES
There's the kind of road rage that gets you killed, and then there's the kind of childish, don't-mess-with-my-motoring tantrum that leads to public ridicule and silly nicknames -- like Jake "Let's Rumble" Plummer.
During the 2005 Broncos season, Mike Shanahan somehow managed to keep his quarterback's moodiness in check. Good Jake showed up most of the time, but it was Bad Jake who bombed out in the AFC championship game against Pittsburgh last January. And it was Superbad Jake who got into an altercation with another motorist in April, allegedly putting his Honda Element into reverse and crunching the license-plate frame of a pickup after the other driver honked at him to express annoyance at Plummer's driving habits. The other driver claimed that Plummer even got out of his car and kicked his truck (who's he think he is? Jason Elam?), but the embattled QB struck an arrangement for dismissal in September that contained no admission of guilt. If only it had stipulated no interceptions, too.
Jay Cutler has yet to manifest a similar passion for robust dialogue with other drivers. But two local football fans learned the hard way that a moving car isn't the best place for team spirit. On Super Bowl Sunday, Arapahoe County deputies discovered a crumpled sedan with busted windows and most of the back seat and roof blown out. Norman Frey and his female companion told officers they'd been on their way to a Super Bowl party with a balloon filled with acetylene gas, which they planned to detonate at the celebration, but the balloon had rolled across the back seat, possibly creating a spark (a freak process known in technical circles as "static electricity") and igniting the gas. According to a police report, the two partygoers were taken to the hospital "with possible shrapnel wounds and very possible broken eardrums."
More handy than an exploding balloon, but not quite street legal, is a nifty device Longmont driver Jason Niccum allegedly used to change red lights to green as he headed to work last spring. Police seized the gizmo, which is supposed to be used sparingly by ambulance drivers and firefighters. Niccum reportedly said he was "always running late" -- but his little helper spurred complaints from other motorists concerning the long waits it generated at a busy intersection.
At least Greg Pringle found a way to put his traffic scam to good use. Caught last January with a makeshift dummy in the HOV lane on the Boulder turnpike by the vigilant Westminster cops, Pringle was sentenced to hold a sign by the side of the road: "The HOV Lane Is Not for Dummies." His fake passenger, Tillie, soon proved she was no dummy: She escaped from the police property room, got her own website and sold for $15,000 in an eBay auction, with proceeds to benefit highway safety programs.
Not all of the dummies are on the roads, though. Consider the emerging deadly triangle on Colorado's ski slopes, involving snowboarders, young girls and angry dads. In January, a Douglas County man thrashed a teenage girl who crossed paths with his eight-year-old daughter on a run at Steamboat Springs, knocking her down; the father pleaded guilty to third-degree assault and was ordered to attend anger-management classes. In December, an Edwards man was ticketed for punching a 22-year-old male snowboarder who sent his eight-year-old daughter flying on Vail Mountain. Police say the snowboarder, who was also ticketed, admitted to drinking throughout the day.
BACK TO THE BARNYARD
Rural themes were big in Colorado politics this past year, and why not? Running for office isn't much different, after all, from mucking out the barn.
Gubernatorial candidate Bill Ritter stressed his gooberness, his deep-in-the-mire love of hard work, acquired while growing up on a family farm in Arapahoe County (no wonder that, as Denver district attorney, he liked to plea-bargain crimes involving illegal immigrants down to a charge of "agricultural trespassing"). The Salazar brothers put on their cowboy hats for rallies and stressed those San Luis Valley roots. Lover of Western duds and Qwest founder Phil Anschutz bought a $1,350 dude-ranch outfit for a deputy prime minister of the United Kingdom who visited his spread outside Greeley, touching off ethics probes among the Brits.
Ritter opponent and former dairy farmer Bob Beauprez did them all one better, showing up in a commercial next to a horse's ass, as if daring viewers to figure out which one was the politician. Trying to get into the stinky spirit of things, perhaps, a Weld County Democratic Party official, Kathleen Ensz, was accused of hand-delivering one of Representative Marilyn Musgrave's campaign mailers to her office -- stuffed with dog shit. Ensz, an emeritus professor of French at the University of Colorado, was cited for "criminal use of a noxious substance." Yet somehow Musgrave and challenger Angie Paccione eluded similar charges for their excrementally toxic campaign ads.
Also going to the dogs was the debate over domestic partnerships. After the Gill Foundation launched an ad campaign featuring Norman, a Brittany spaniel that moos (because he's "born different," okay?), the folks at Focus on the Family responded with a basset hound named Sherman that -- in public, at least -- barks as God intended. "Dogs aren't born mooing, and people aren't born gay," a Focus press release explained. But are they born stupid, or do they have to work at it?
And was it nature or nurture that prompted Beauprez running mate Janet Rowland to go on a public television show and compare homosexuality to bestiality? "Do we allow a man to marry a sheep?" Rowland asked, while denouncing gay marriage. (The answer, incidentally, is no way -- not even if the bride has been injected with an irritant that causes her to bulk up.) Beauprez, of course, disapproved of the comment, as well as several of his own.
Sheep of another kind are apparently the only beings welcome in the presence of Vice President Dick Cheney, whose visit to Beaver Creek in June resulted in a Golden man, Steven Howards, being led away in handcuffs. A Secret Service spokesman said Howards "wasn't acting like other folks" and became combative when questioned. Howards maintains he simply approached Cheney at an outdoor mall and said, "I think your policies in Iraq are reprehensible." Charges of misdemeanor harassment against Howards were later dropped; he's since filed a civil-rights suit against one federal agent involved in the incident.
We expect politicians to stretch the truth, but how many bother to stretch themselves? In photos featured in his campaign literature, Beauprez challenger Marc Holtzman seemed to get taller. Critics of his maverick primary campaign accused him of inflating his ties to Ronald Reagan, and his campaign manager stepped down after admitting that he'd made up polling data he'd given to a reporter. But his overreaching caught up with Holtzman after officials tossed out thousands of dubious signatures on the petitions his campaign had gathered in a last-ditch effort to get on the ballot. In the end, size does count.
All politics are local, and the worst political blunders of the year were very, very personal. One leader in touch with the common folk was Broomfield state representative Bill Berens, who went ballistic when a nineteen-year-old college sophomore wrote a letter to a local paper taking issue with a $20,000 prize Berens won in a golf tournament. The student argued that the money was a gift from the tournament sponsor, the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, in violation of state lobbying laws. Berens responded that it was perfectly legal prize money, paid by an insurance company, and he was keeping it. He even filed a complaint with Adams County, claiming the student had violated a law against making false statements during a political campaign and urging that the newspaper that published her letter be prosecuted, too. Talk about a political gaffer: Berens lost his bid for re-election.
Yet even Berens couldn't match the display of political savvy that flared up in Pagosa Springs last month, when a homeowners' association threatened to fine Lisa Jensen $25 a day unless she removed a Christmas wreath in the shape of a peace sign, which some neighbors viewed as an anti-war protest or some kind of satanic message. With irrefutable logic, the board decided a holiday symbol of peace is, well, divisive, and nobody wants that. But within a few days, it was the board that was gone, having humbly apologized and resigned in the face of coast-to-coast outrage and ridicule.
The wreath remains.
Peace, dude. Peace on earth, peace to all. And to all a good sheep.
Compiled from news reports, press releases and the police blotter.
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