Cory Voorhis hearing, day one: Fired ICE agent battles to get his job back, boss Tony Rouco fumbles again

Cory Voorhis, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent who was fired for leaking information from a restricted database to Republican Bob Beauprez's 2006 gubernatorial campaign, began making his case to get his job back before a federal administrative judge Wednesday.

The Denver hearing encapsulated the dramatic twists and embarrassing turns the story's taken over the last few years -- including theories that Voorhis fallout may have contributed to Governor Bill Ritter's decision to not run for re-election and former Ritter aide Stephanie Villafuerte's withdrawal of her name from consideration for a U.S. Attorney post.

In day one of the hearing, Voorhis's attorney, Tom Muther, prodded and exposed old wounds -- including the flip-flopping testimony of ICE supervisor and alleged perjurer Tony Rouco, who Voorhis says had knowledge of, and even supported, the leaks to the Beauprez camp.

Voorhis, who was acquitted of wrongdoing in a criminal trial, passed along the name of Walter Ramo, who, during Ritter's time as Denver district attorney, had skirted serious criminal charges that would likely have led to his deportation in favor of a lesser plea -- trespassing on agricultural land. Ramo was subsequently arrested in California on sex-crime charges.

The information, which came from a restricted database, was used in a Beaprez attack ad that ultimately backfired, opening the floodgates for character assaults, investigations and black eyes for ICE.

Beauprez, who attended Wednesday's hearing and diligently took notes throughout the daylong hearing, said Wednesday that Voorhis and his family have been unjustly "persecuted" for exposing the controversial plea-down practice.

"This has been about the biggest travesty of justice I've ever been close to," Beauprez said. "It doesn't make sense... Cory Voorhis is not the bad guy in all this.

"I want Cory to get his job back and be whole," he added.

Beauprez and the dozens of others who attended the hearing presided over by Merit Systems Protection Board Judge Jeremiah Cassidy would have been barred from the hearing if ICE had its way -- presumably to keep Rouco's testimony from being heard by the public.

Rouco, Denver ICE group supervisor and Voorhis' occasional supervisor, seemed to be as confused by his own current and previous testimonies as the ICE Office of Professional Responsibility, which said in a 2009 report that he "willfully gave false testimony under oath" during Voorhis' criminal trial. But despite his acquittal, Voorhis was later fired by ICE anyway -- an unfair result, Muther said, because it was based on Rouco's report to his superiors.

Ruoco stumbled throughout his testimony on everything from the distinction between what are confidential documents and what is public record to the dates he had conversations with Voorhis or made phone calls to a Denver-area attorney.

After a series of questions pertaining to an "extensive conversation" Rouco allegedly had with an interested party, Muther asked: "So it's something you could hear yourself saying but you didn't say?"

"I don't recall that conversation, so I can't recall whether I said that or not."

At present, Rouco, who admitted to saying "I'll throw (Voorhis) under the bus in a fucking heartbeat," is the subject of an investigation ICE re-opened in the last thirty to 45 days, Muther said during the hearing.

Regarding Voorhis's leak of sensitive materials, which exposed the DA's plea-down practices, Rouco said, "I was glad it got out."

Still, Rouco maintains he knew nothing about the leaks prior to the TV commercials that blasted Ritter. Likewise, he insists that he never condoned the leaks once Voorhis admitted his role in the fiasco -- a claim Voorhis says isn't true.

"Mr. Voorhis was a stellar agent," Rouco said at the hearing. "I let my guard down -- I didn't ask enough questions."

The agency's attorney, Robert Erbe, stressed ICE's stance that Voorhis was lawfully fired after an inquiry into his access of the restricted criminal and immigrant databases.

Robert Weber, the special agent in charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in Washington D.C., was the official who signed off on canning Voorhis. On Wednesday, he defended the decision, saying Voorhis's exposure in the media as an agent who leaked information to the public compromised his "veracity" as a law enforcement witness in court.

"There was a lack of trust that cannot be reclaimed," he said. "It's something that can't just be forgiven... The disclosure of information is a serious charge."

Muther pressed hard on the assertion that Weber's decision was based on an ICE report that allegedly found its own official, Rouco, had perjured himself. When asked, Weber said the after-the-fact knowledge about Rouco's failed polygraph lie detector test and false testimony did not incline him to review the findings on which Voorhis was fired.

"There is a shadow of a doubt there, isn't there?" Muther asked.

"Not necessarily," Weber responded.

The second and final day of the hearing will begin at 9 a.m. today in the Byron G. Rogers Federal Building on 19th and Stout Streets in Denver, and Westword will be there. Muther told Westword earlier this month that he expects to hear Judge Cassidy's decision within thirty days.