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A Very Brady Plea

When Richard Brady pleaded guilty to second-degree murder last month in the death of security guard John Adamo, he was playing the odds: He could accept the plea bargain from the Denver District Attorney's office or take the chance of losing his first-degree-murder trial and ending up with an automatic sentence of life without parole.

Brady took the deal. That he was even offered one angered Adamo's father, who says it seems that prosecutors are treating the death of his son lightly.

"It baffles me," John Adamo Sr. says. "It seems like we had a very good case against him, but [the prosecutors] gave me lots of reasons to go for a plea bargain, none of which made any sense to me. It seemed it was all based on expediency and expense. I'm rather bitter."

Prosecutors originally thought first-degree murder was a fair charge. Brady had apparently planned the crime (although he told detectives he had meant only to frighten Adamo) and had the presence of mind to dispose of the gun and other evidence ("Graveyard Shift," June 5). And to John Adamo Sr. and his former wife, Carolyn Dobson, first-degree murder seemed a righteous charge.

Soon after Brady's arrest, however, his family hired defense attorney Phil Cherner, who went after the police like a pit bull. Brady had not been properly advised of his rights before he gave a statement, Cherner charged. Nor had he been read his rights before detectives searched his house and car and gave him a polygraph exam and a gunshot-residue test, the attorney noted during motions to overturn both the evidence and Brady's statement.

A ruling on those motions, which were to be heard June 30, "could have gone either way," says Denver chief deputy district attorney Bonnie Benedetti. "If [the defense] won the motion, [Brady's] statement would be thrown out." That would have significantly hurt the prosecution's case, she says, adding, "If we won, we would have no interest in making a plea bargain.

"It was something neither side wanted to gamble on."
Before offering the plea bargain to Brady, prosecutors asked Adamo's parents how they felt about a lesser charge. They were opposed to a deal. "Why they asked us, I don't know," says John Adamo Sr.

On June 30, the same day the motion to suppress Brady's statement was to be heard, he pleaded guilty to second-degree murder. His sentencing is scheduled for August 29, at which time he could be ordered to serve anywhere between 8 and 48 years.

Benedetti says she will meet with Adamo's family before deciding on a sentence recommendation to present to the court. "I anticipate asking for a lot of time," she says.

It was just before dawn on January 17 when Brady walked into Denver's hulking wastewater building, tracked down the 27-year-old Adamo, and pumped six rounds from his .32-caliber pistol into the body of the young security guard. Until that day, the 57-year-old Brady--an equipment specialist with Wastewater Management for 27 years--had been considered a model employee. But within hours of the discovery of Adamo's body, Brady's name had surfaced as a possible suspect and he was brought in to police headquarters.

When co-workers learned that Brady was being questioned in connection with Adamo's murder, they thought it was nonsense. They didn't believe Brady was capable of murder. And the only problem between the two men they could recall was that Brady had been upset with Adamo for reporting him for a minor rules infraction.

Police, however, believe that that simple act caused Brady to commit murder.
Denver homicide detective Dale Wallis questioned Brady for hours that day. But it wasn't until confronted with the mounting evidence against him that Brady confessed to killing Adamo.

"I think [Brady's] a perfectionist," Wallis says, struggling for the words to explain the murder. "The way he kept his old pickup in mint condition...you could even tell by the way his house and yard were kept. He built his garage without any electricity; he used all hand tools. That's the way he was.

"He always went to work hours early. He was a workaholic. We heard that nobody wanted to work with him because they couldn't keep up--he put in a solid day of work. He had everything pretty much organized--his whole day was organized, in control. He had a routine."

But in early January, when Adamo caught Brady rinsing road salt off his old truck in the city-owned wash bay and turned him in, that ruined the routine. "They told him he could no longer use the bay," Wallis says. "And even though to you and I it's no big deal, it added on to his other pressures."

For almost three decades, Brady had remained in the background, passed over for promotion again and again. "He told me he saw people promoted for reasons other than merit," says Wallis. "He said he worked with a woman who, after less than a week, hurt her back and didn't spend another day in the field. Then she ends up being his supervisor.

"And then, all he wants to do is wash his truck and he gets turned in by a security guard who's fairly new at his job." And a youngster at that--Adamo was born the same year Brady started working for the wastewater department. Brady received an oral reprimand from a supervisor following the incident. That would have been the end of it, but Brady wouldn't let the matter drop. All his years of frustration turned on Adamo.

Brady began harassing the guard, calling him names and complaining about his attitude. Adamo again reported Brady. When Brady harassed Adamo a second time--"We are going to war," Brady told him--Brady's supervisors decided to place him on a few days' paid investigative leave beginning January 16. It was intended as a cooling-off period for Brady.

In placing him on leave, Brady's supervisors were following procedures that had only recently come down from above. The department, in fact, was just then undergoing training to deal with issues of workplace violence.

The suspension galled and embarrassed Brady. "He didn't want his wife to worry," Wallis says, "and he never told her he'd been suspended." On the morning of January 17, Brady rose and dressed as if it were simply another work day. He packed his thermos--and a gun--and drove from his Northglenn home to the wastewater building in Denver, where he confronted and killed John Adamo.

Police say Brady picked up five of the spent shells (one was left under Adamo's bloodied body) and disposed of them. Brady himself told police that he threw his weapon into the Platte River. The gun has not been found.

Later that day Brady was jailed for investigation of first-degree murder. Until then he had had an absolutely clean record--"The guy never even had a parking ticket," Wallis says.

But Brady's likely to be in legal trouble for a long time. Even when the criminal case has ended, the Adamo case will go on--this time in civil court. Carolyn Dobson has retained Denver attorney Paula Greisen to represent her in a $5 million suit against the city. (John Adamo Sr. is not a party to the suit.)

"Basically," Greisen says, "we're saying that [Adamo's] civil rights were violated, that the city should have known about the danger, or that they acted in reckless disregard for the well-being of John Adamo." In addition, Greisen says she plans to argue that the city failed to provide a safe workplace or adequately train its personnel regarding potential violence.

Greisen says her client also is considering filing suit against the security company Adamo worked for--and possibly against Brady himself.

John Adamo Sr. says he has no plans to join in that suit. "I see no reason for it," he says. "I see no reason to sue him and make life hard for his family--he's done that enough himself."

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Karen Bowers