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Cory Voorhis: Settlement discussions ended after Stephanie Villafuerte withdrew from consideration for U.S. Attorney

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Former ICE agent Cory Voorhis' name was in the news throughout December thanks to the troubled nomination of Stephanie Villafuerte as U.S. Attorney.

Representative Mike Coffman cited Voorhis in a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder requesting an investigation of Villafuerte in connection to the improper accessing of a criminal database -- the same act for which Voorhis was fired (and later acquitted at trial). And Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions mentioned Voorhis (mangling his moniker in the process) to Homeland Security secretary Janet Napolitano during a judiciary committee hearing shortly before asking that consideration of Villafuerte's nomination be delayed.

All of this would seem to bode well for Voorhis in regard to a Merit Systems Protection Board hearing about his firing later this month. But according to Tom Muther, Voorhis' attorney, there's been an unexpected twist. Namely, discussions about a possible settlement promptly stopped as soon as Villafuerte formally withdrew her name from nomination

Prior to that, things had seemed to be swinging Voorhis' way. His MSPB hearing had been scheduled for December 9 and 10, but ICE wanted to severely limit the number of supporters and members of the media who could attend, arguing that the space (in the ICE offices in Centennial) wouldn't accommodate more than a handful of people. However, Muther says, the situation changed after the proposed ICE restrictions were publicized.

MSPB judge Jeremiah Cassidy, who was originally slated to conduct the hearing via videoconference, agreed to come to Denver and hear the case in person. As such, the hearing was rescheduled for January 27 and 28 at the Byron G. Rogers Federal Building at 1961 Stout Street, in a tax courtroom that Muther believes has room for as many as a hundred attendees. Muther expects a decision within thirty days or so afterward.

Then, on December 14, Villafuerte decided that she would no longer participate in the U.S. Attorney sweepstakes. And since then? "It's safe to say that since Villafuerte withdrew, the agency has not approached us with a settlement," Muther notes.

Muther declines to speculate about why this has been the case. But those with a conspiratorial bent may wonder if the push for a settlement was motivated by the desire to resolve the Voorhis conflict in order to smooth the way for Villafuerte's confirmation -- and when she stepped back, that motivation vanished, causing settlement offers to fall down the priority list.

Whatever the case, Muther remains optimistic, in part because of another development on the national front: Erroll Southers, President Barack Obama's nominee to front the Transportation Security Administration, has admitted that twenty years ago, he accessed the same kind of criminal database as did Voorhis, but for more personal reasons -- he was looking for information about his ex-wife's boyfriend. And yet he continues to be backed by the current administration.

Given all this ammo, wouldn't Muther prefer to go forward with the hearing? Not necessarily.

"Cory's primary goal is to return to his life and be able to fulfill his law enforcement career as he intended all along," he says. "So, from the perspective of expediency and efficiency -- from the perspective of getting Cory some relief as soon as possible -- we're more than open to a settlement. It's just the agency that has been unbending in that regard."

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