When Secretary of State Scott Gessler was in Tampa, Florida, last August for the Republican National Convention — a trip he is now being criminally investigated for — he got a message from his staff in Colorado about a disturbing phone call. Someone had called the election line and had begun ranting to an administrative assistant about the nearly 4,000 letters that Gessler's office had sent to suspected non-citizens asking them to prove their citizenship or remove themselves from the voter rolls. The letters, part of Gessler's campaign against voter fraud, were very controversial.
"He was upset and had a lot to say, so I let him vent," administrative assistant Minerva Padron said in a Colorado Bureau of Investigation report, which Westword recently obtained through an Open Records request. "He continued making comments about the Republican Party and how they were not going to exist soon. He mentioned something about the Tea Party and called Republicans a bunch of wack jobs. He said Republicans should be shot in the head, and that way maybe they would learn."
"I don't remember much else," Padron continued, "except before he disconnected the call, he said people know where the Secretary's family lives."
Just a few days earlier, Gessler's office had received another threat that was specifically directed at his family; this one came via e-mail from outside Colorado. No other information was given, because it is still an open investigation.
Gessler cut his trip short after the phone call and returned home; his wife and daughter temporarily moved out of their home, while police patrols were sent to his mother's house as a precaution, according to his staff. Gessler's anti-fraud efforts had earned accusations that he was supporting a coordinated Republican agenda to suppress voters, but the two threats against his family represented a whole new level of push-back.
These details have emerged because of two investigations into whether Gessler illegally used state money to pay for his trip to Florida, where he attended partisan events — both the RNC and a Republican National Lawyers Association meeting. Colorado Ethics Watch, a good government group that has closely scrutinized Gessler, started the ball rolling with a complaint, and now the Denver District Attorney's Office is pursuing a criminal investigation. The Independent Ethics Commission, a state-created body, is also reviewing the case.
Gessler's legal team, which includes high-profile attorney David Lane, is required to file a response to the Ethics Commission by the end of the week, and it's likely that new details about the threats will emerge at that time, since the fact that Gessler cut his trip short probably affected the amount of money he spent on it.
Gessler has repeatedly said that he doesn't think he broke any laws and that the Republican lawyers' event constituted official business.
Meanwhile, CBI has pushed forward with its investigation into the phone threat, tracing it to a Colorado man whom they haven't publicly identified but who they say has a history of these kinds of outbursts. In 2011, the man left a message at the office of Republican congressman Doug Lamborn, saying he deserves a bullet in the head, according to the report.
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In response to Gessler's case, agents went to the suspect's Denver home, where he admitted that he'd made the call and had intended it to be threatening. But the man said he never intended to actually injure Gessler and he doesn't have any firearms, the CBI notes.
According to the report, the man's wife told agents, "I've warned him! I can't control him!"
After getting information from CBI, the Denver DA's office decided not to prosecute this individual, since there was no violation of law.
And the man did tell CBI investigators that he never wanted to break the law in the first place, repeatedly stating, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.... They were just words."