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Jack Gardner's 2014 mug shot.
Jack Gardner's 2014 mug shot.
File photo

How Brady Letters Evolved Into a Blacklist for Suspect Cops

The Boulder County District Attorney's Office currently has a list of thirteen local law enforcement officers who've each received what is known as a Brady letter, a document that identifies them as suffering from possible credibility issues should they be called to testify at trial.

The impact of the letters, which involve folks who've made serious missteps involving criminal convictions or lesser infractions pertaining to violations of rules or policies, can vary widely. Many agencies will refuse to employ applicants with a Brady letter, period. Others may overlook one. And plenty have no idea that an officer wears the mark of Brady and may unwittingly hire her or him anyhow — which is why Boulder Assistant District Attorney Ken Kupfner began keeping track of letter recipients in his jurisdiction circa 2014.

"There's not a central database where we can find out if a newly hired officer was ever in a position where a district attorney issued a Brady letter," Kupfner says. "That's why we wanted to maintain a historical record — because that hadn't traditionally been done."

Brady letters are named in reference to Brady v. Maryland, a 1963 U.S. Supreme Court case in which the justices "said prosecutors are required to hand over any kind of exculpatory information," Kupfner explains. "So if officers have something we're aware of that may affect their truthfulness, we're obligated under the Supreme Court and Rule 16 under the Colorado Rules of Criminal Procedures to turn it over."

Among the first to wind up on Kupfner's Brady inventory was Jack Gardner, a longtime detective with the Boulder Police Department who was arrested in October 2014 for allegedly warning a child-luring suspect in advance to prevent him from becoming ensnared in a sting operation; his arrest affidavit is accessible below. The following year, Gardner was sentenced to three years' probation after his conviction on a trio of misdemeanors.

The same month Gardner was busted, his colleague, Boulder police officer Ryan Wagner, was fitted for cuffs in relation to accusations of stalking. In 2016, he earned a mix of probation and jail time for the offenses.

Both Gardner and Wagner lost their gigs as a result of their actions. But Kelly Boden, a deputy with the Boulder County Sheriff's Office K-9 unit, was more fortunate. She received a Brady letter for failing to report an incidence of child abuse, for which she received a 24-month deferred sentence that was wiped off her record after she completed her sentence — and she remained on the job throughout the process.

Things were more complicated for Ismael Aldana. He resigned as a Boulder County sheriff's deputy in May 2014 after being nabbed by investigators in Chicago while in the company of a drug-trafficking suspect; he was reportedly carrying $70,000 in cash on him. But neither he nor his companion were found guilty of a crime in the case, and he subsequently became a police officer in Mead, a community that initially stood by him after his Brady status was revealed by the Longmont Times-Call this past January.

"The Town of Mead hired Officer Aldana originally as our code enforcement officer in 2014 and since that time he has been a dedicated member of the Town of Mead staff," a statement on the community's website reads. "He assisted in the creation of the Mead Police Department and serves our community with honor and pride each day."

Nonetheless, Aldana left his Mead Police Department position in June.

"Agencies have different approaches to officers with Brady letters," Kupfner confirms. "Although some chiefs or commanders with law enforcement agencies in Boulder County have made statements that they would never hire or keep an officer with a Brady letter in their file, not all of them approach it that way. But what I see as a problem is that not all agencies are aware of when a Brady letter exists when they're looking to hire an officer. There have been many active discussions about how best to deal with that — because it can create a bad situation for a district attorney's office or agency if they're not aware of it."

There are other potential issues, too. Brady letters tend to make general allusions about the reason that an officer received the document but often don't go into detail. It's easy to figure out what happened if the individuals in question have convictions, but not so simple if they don't.

For instance, the Times-Call was able to determine that former Boulder County sheriff's deputy Kevin Averill was fired after he drank some beers and took a sleeping pill prior to scheduled testimony at a trial that ended in the defendant's acquittal, ex-Boulder police officer Ronald Perea resigned following accusations of rule violations and excessive force (he also happened to be on the scene for the 2014 shooting of Coleman Stewart, although he didn't personally pull his trigger), and University of Colorado Boulder police officer Richard Mafera was disciplined after allegedly posting offensive material on his Facebook page, among other things. But ex-Longmont police officers Robert Buswold, Wade Weese and Lily Moody, onetime Longmont crime-scene technician Cindy Lawley, former Erie cops Shane Curtis and Jamie Chester, and Lanie Delong, who's no longer with the Boulder County Sheriff's Office, are cited for dubious honesty and integrity.

Most instances like the latter will generate internal-affairs investigations that judges can obtain in cases where officers with Brady letters are called to testify — but that's only possible if prosecutors know such a missive exists.

Hence the Boulder County list. "We try to do a good job of keeping a record," Kupfner says, "because as you start to go back in time, personnel in district attorney's offices changes, and just going from memory is not the best route to make sure which officers you have information on."

Here's the current roster.

Ron Perea during his time as a Boulder cop.
Ron Perea during his time as a Boulder cop.
Boulder Police Department

BRADY LIST: BOULDER COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY'S OFFICE

Ismael Aldana
Boulder County Sheriff's Office

Kevin Averill
Boulder County Sheriff's Office

Kelly Boden
Boulder County Sheriff's Office

Robert Buswold
Longmont Police Department

Jamie Chester
Erie Police Department

Shane Curtis
Erie Police Department

Lanie Delong
Boulder County Sheriff's Office

Jack Gardner
Boulder Police Department

Cindy Lawley
Longmont Police Department

Richard Mafera
University of Colorado Boulder Police Department

Gene McCausey
Louisville Police Department

Lily Moody
Longmont Police Department

Ronald Perea
Boulder Police Department

Ryan Wagner
Boulder Police Department

Wade Weese
Longmont Police Department

Click to access the Jack Gardner arrest affidavit.

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