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Attorney Targets Settlement That Stops Detective From Suing Michael Hancock

Mayor Michael Hancock as seen in his February apology video to Denver detective Leslie Branch-Wise.
Mayor Michael Hancock as seen in his February apology video to Denver detective Leslie Branch-Wise. YouTube file photo
Mayor Michael Hancock undoubtedly breathed a sigh of relief after Denver City Council decided not to investigate him for sexual harassment in regard to inappropriate texts he sent to Denver detective Leslie Branch-Wise during the 2011-2012 period when she was on his security detail. But any conclusion that he's now entirely off the hook may be premature.

An attorney representing Wayne McDonald, a former Hancock friend and city employee fired in 2012 for his own alleged behavior toward Branch-Wise, is now demanding a review of all lawyers who played a role in a $75,000 payment to the detective by the City of Denver over the matter. The 2013 settlement precludes Branch-Wise from suing Hancock, even though his texts to her (including one that asked her if she'd ever taken a pole-dancing class) were not known to McDonald's legal team in 2016, when they accepted $200,000 to resolve a lawsuit filed after his firing four years earlier.

Anne Sulton was the original attorney on McDonald's complaint circa 2012. After she retired, her son, William Sulton, took over the case and has said plans are afoot to sue Denver again because of Hancock's allusion to McDonald in his apology video to Branch-Wise and the city's failure to disclose his texts to her, which would have potentially prompted a larger settlement.

However, Anne is now back on board and is the author of a letter to Kirsten Crawford, legislative counsel for the Denver City Council, regarding a "Demand for Litigation Hold."


click to enlarge William Sulton began handling the lawsuit filed by Wayne McDonald in 2012 after the retirement of his mother, fellow attorney Anne Sulton. - VONBRIESEN.COM
William Sulton began handling the lawsuit filed by Wayne McDonald in 2012 after the retirement of his mother, fellow attorney Anne Sulton.
The letter, dated April 2, was originally obtained by Craig Silverman, a former chief deputy district attorney with the Denver District Attorney's Office who's currently in private practice. Silverman is also a talk-show host on KNUS, and he shared the document this morning on the Peter Boyles morning-drive program. It's accessible below in its entirety.

The introduction to the letter gets straight to the point: "I am asking the Colorado Supreme Court's Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel to review the conduct of all attorneys involved in the payment of $75,000 to Leslie Branch-Wise on or about June 28, 2013."

Another passage, with several words appearing in bold and underlined, stresses that the matter involves both McDonald and Hancock. It reads: "To facilitate my request for a review, I hearby formally demand that your office identify all persons, communications and documents, and place a litigation hold on any and all documents, relating to this $75,000 payment and any and all other payments and/or benefits made to or conferred upon Ms. Wise relating to Wayne McDonald and/or Mayor Michael Hancock."

The types of communications Anne wants to see are varied. The term "document" is said to include but is not limited to dozens of different formats, including papers, emails, text messages, videotapes, audio tapes, WAV files and more.

The letter states that the materials should be assembled and produced on or before April 16, and while there's no mention that a new lawsuit is on the way, this prospect is impossible to miss.

The resulting pile could potentially represent a much greater legal risk for Hancock than any sanction by the Denver City Council, which has emphasized for weeks that it has no power to punish the mayor even if it was determined that he had sexually harassed Branch-Wise.

Click to read the Anne Sulton demand letter.
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts