A new lawsuit argues that a coverup tainted the investigation into the March 2013 murder of Colorado prisons boss Tom Clements, and after the plaintiff, former El Paso County Sheriff's Office commander Juan San Agustin, spoke out about it, he was indicted in retaliation as part of the scandal that surrounded former El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa.
The document, originally obtained by the Colorado Independent and accessible below, ties together two of the most startling Colorado stories of the past decade even as it makes a number of other incendiary claims.
Among them: The 2008 murder of 17th Judicial District Deputy DA Sean May by members of a notorious prison gang called the 211 Crew was a case of mistaken identity, since the real target was a prosecutor in a neighboring jurisdiction, 18th Judicial District chief deputy DA Dan May.
Oh, yeah: May, who's now the district attorney for the 4th Judicial District, is among the defendants in San Agustin's lawsuit, along with El Paso County Sheriff Bill Elder, the Colorado Bureau of Investigations, and 18th Judicial District DA George Brauchler, the Republican candidate for Colorado attorney general.
Law enforcers believe that Clements was killed by Evan Ebel, a member of the 211 Crew, whose father was a good friend of Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper; Ebel had been released from incarceration early because of a clerical error. Moreover, Clements wasn't Ebel's only victim.
His killing spree appears to have started with Nathan Leon, who worked at a Domino's Pizza branch near East 40th Avenue and Colorado Boulevard. Leon was sent on a delivery but never returned. His body was found in an open-space area near a Golden recycling plant. He died of multiple gunshot wounds.
Turns out Ebel had ordered a pizza to be delivered to an intersection — something that's against Domino's rules. So he called back from a pay phone and gave an address to which Leon responded. At that point, Ebel is thought to have taken Leon hostage before driving him to the Golden area, where he shot him to death.
A short time later, law enforcers contend, Ebel shot down Clements at his home before heading south. The journey seems to have gone without incident prior to his arrival in Montague County, Texas, where Deputy James Boyd pulled over Ebel's black, Colorado-plated Caddy in a traffic stop.
Moments later, Ebel opened fire on Boyd, who was wearing a bulletproof vest — and while his head was grazed by one shot, he was able to get back to his car and radio for help. His cohorts responded in force, resulting in a gunfight during which Ebel was killed.
Ebel's death didn't end the investigation into the Clements slaying. The lawsuit says that San Agustin, in his role as inspector with the sheriff's office, and other colleagues on his team soon concluded that Ebel hadn't acted alone and pushed for murder charges against James Lohr, Thomas Guolee and Chris Middleton, all reported 211 Crew members. However, the suit says that May removed his top prosecutor from the case and "refused to let charges be brought."
The suit then references a 2016 Denver Post story in which San Agustin "expressed his strong views that the murder of Tom Clements was orchestrated by the 211 Crew" and "stated that he had made requests to Defendant Dan May to bring criminal charges." In addition, according to the complaint, the author of the Post article, Kirk Mitchell, contacted May and Sheriff Elder "for a comment regarding Plaintiff's and Terry Maketa's concerns that the Tom Clements investigation was being mishandled."
Shortly thereafter, San Agustin was indicted along with Maketa in a matter that spun out of an August 2013 domestic disturbance involving a sheriff's-office employee and his girlfriend, who worked for Correctional Healthcare Companies, which contracted to provide services at the El Paso County jail. She wound up with "a swollen face and bruising on her arm" as a result of punching, pushing and shoving.
The indictment states that a sheriff's-office worker subsequently went to Maketa, with whom he had a "pre-existing relationship," to ask "how he could keep his job as he had been suspended and ultimately terminated following his arrest." In response, Maketa was accused of contacting the victim and telling her to claim that "she instigated the incident and was the aggressor." She did so in order to help the sheriff's-office employee, who was still her boyfriend at the time. "At the conclusion of that interview," the indictment allows, the woman "was arrested for the crimes of domestic violence, harassment and driving under the influence."
From the beginning, San Agustin stated that he had nothing to do with this matter, and in October 2017, all charges against him were dropped. His exoneration gave him the opportunity to speak freely, and in the lawsuit, he certainly does so. Here's a key excerpt:
In the Summer of 2016, Defendant Elder contacted all agencies that had been involved with the investigation of the Tom Clements murder and informed them that the investigation was closed.
When Governor Hickenlooper found out about this, he called Defendant Elder in for a meeting and ordered the investigation re-opened.
Although Defendant Elder complied with Governor Hickenlooper’s demand, the investigation is open in name only, virtually no El Paso County Sheriff’s Office resources are being put towards the investigation.
San Agustin also accuses various defendants in the suit of going out of their way to kill his career.
"As a result of the Defendants' conduct, Plaintiff spent 509 days defending the charges in a criminal case," a passage calculates, adding, "Plaintiff’s name and reputation has been irreparably tarnished. Plaintiff suffered great anguish and emotional distress, including but not limited to depression, severe anxiety, chest pain and insomnia. Plaintiff suffered great economic loss as a result of Defendants’ actions."
Neither Sheriff Elder nor the El Paso County District Attorney's Office are commenting on the case. But Brauchler, who allegedly appointed Assistant District Attorney Mark Hurlbert and Deputy District Attorney Grant Fevurly (they're defendants, too) to handle the Maketa inquiry under his supervision, has released a statement that reads in part: "It’s a sad fact of life that prosecutors are often sued for doing their jobs by persons who don’t like the fact that they were prosecuted. Such lawsuits are almost always legally frivolous and quickly dismissed by the courts. Anyone can file a lawsuit alleging anything they want. This lawsuit has no basis in fact or law. Once we are served with it, we will file a motion to dismiss, which we anticipate will be granted quickly by the court."
Click to read Juan San Agustin Jr. v. El Paso County, et al.
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