Former Jefferson County Treasurer Mark Paschall's second trial for allegedly soliciting a kickback from an aide's $18,000 bonus is underway out at the Taj Mahal. (The first one, back in February, ended in an acquittal on one charge and a hung jury on the other.) Although it’s only expected to last another day or two, it's an eye-opening lesson in the snakepit of Jeffco politics.
Iron-gripped gadfly Mike Zinna had sought permission to video the testimony for his website but was turned down by Judge Randall C. Arp. After all, what kind of public interest could there be in a corruption trial involving formerly high-ranking county officials?
But the real education came during the cross-examination of Kathy Redmond, the political appointee in Paschall's office who was offered the bonus in the waning days of his tenure — and informed by Paschall, she says, that he wanted her to split it with him. Paschall claims that he was set up to some degree by county commissioner Jim Congrove, a conspiracy-theory defense described here, and Paschall attorney David Lane aggressively sought to lay the groundwork for that claim in his interrogation of Redmond.
But during more than three hours of often-emotional testimony, Redmond, the prosecution's star witness, insisted she was a reluctant informant in the case. She went to Congrove about Paschall's offer, she testified, and then agreed to tape conversations with Paschall for the district attorney's office, because "it was the right thing to do at the time." One taped call produced nothing incriminating; another has Paschall agreeing to a three-way split of the bonus — "a third for taxes, a third for you, a third for me" — which Lane has characterized as a kind of joke.
Redmond took pains to make sure the jury understood that her dealings with her boss Paschall and her "confidant" Congrove were strictly professional. Asked if she would have taken the bonus if Paschall hadn't demanded a piece of it, Redmond said no. If she took it, "people would assume [there was] a relationship" between her and Paschall.
"What I know is that the county is a gossip mill," Redmond said. "That's why I didn't want any part of that money at all."
Intriguingly, Paschall's whole defense rests on the notion that the case against him is a misunderstood gesture to a subordinate which, through the machinations of political enemies, got blown out of proportion. The prosecution rested after Redmond's testimony, leaving the way clear for Lane to try to show the jury just how vicious the gossip mill in Jeffco can be. –- Alan Prendergast