Deborah Ramirez's Brett Kavanaugh Accusation Spotlights Colorado Again

Deborah Ramirez has accused Brett Kavanaugh, seen here testifying before Congress earlier this month, of exposing himself to her at a college party.
Deborah Ramirez has accused Brett Kavanaugh, seen here testifying before Congress earlier this month, of exposing himself to her at a college party. file photo
The September 23 New Yorker piece based on assertions by Deborah Ramirez that U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh "thrust his penis in her face, and caused her to touch it without her consent" 35 years ago at a college party again connects Colorado to an enormous national story, as has become increasingly common in recent years.

Ramirez is a Colorado resident who formerly served as a volunteer coordinator for Boulder's Safehouse Progressive Alliance for Nonviolence, where she was known as Debbie. Since 2013, Ramirez has been employed by Boulder County's Housing and Human Services department. The attorney identified by The New Yorker as the her representative is Stan Garnett, the ex-Boulder County district attorney and onetime Democratic nominee for Colorado attorney general who joined the powerhouse law firm of Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, LLP earlier this year. A spokesperson for Garnett says the case has now transitioned to Boulder attorney John Clune, who currently represents a female Uber driver who accuses Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston of groping her in 2016.

The frequency with which Colorado stories go national was underscored last month by the coverage of allegations that Frederick's Chris Watts killed his pregnant wife, Shanann Watts, and the couple's two daughters.

The blizzard of attention whipped up by the tragic Watts family tale called to mind similar media frenzies stirred by the 1996 murder of JonBenét Ramsey, the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School and the 2012 Aurora theater shooting.

But there have also been plenty of Colorado ties to the wave of sexual harassment reports that followed in the wake of accusations against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein — many of them revealed by New Yorker scribe Ronan Farrow, who broke the Ramirez news in an account co-written by Jane Mayer, distinguished author of Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right.

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Stan Garnett seen during his days as Boulder district attorney.
Photo by Michael Albert
Recall that comic Louis C.K. allegedly exposed himself to several women at an Aspen comedy club back in 2002. Longtime Denver comedy club star T.J. Miller has faced sexual-misconduct accusations, too — and they caused consternation at an open mic night at the Lion's Lair just a week ago. Likewise, charges that Peyton Manning, who quarterbacked the Denver Broncos to a Super Bowl victory, had "placed his naked butt and rectum" against the face of a trainer while attending the University of Tennessee resurfaced post-Weinstein.

And that's not to mention sexual-abuse accusations against discredited TV legend Bill Cosby leveled by two Colorado women, Barbara Bowman and Heidi Thomas. By coincidence, Cosby's sentencing hearing for his criminal behavior toward former Temple University women's basketball official Andrea Constand (he was convicted in April) gets under way today.

As for Ramirez's claims against Kavanaugh, they center around what Farrow and Mayer characterize as a Yale University "dormitory party gone awry." The authors acknowledge that Ramirez had "gaps" in her memory about the night in question, since she had been drinking as well — but after six days of reassessment, she is now confident that her recollections about Kavanaugh are accurate. Moreover, other party attendees confirmed that they'd heard about Kavanaugh's actions contemporaneously and had been discussing them in email conversations during the weeks prior to yesterday, when Ramirez's revelations came to light.

How they did so is discussed in the following excerpt: "As Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings became a national story, the discussions among Ramirez and Kavanaugh’s classmates took on heightened urgency, eventually spreading to news organizations and to the Senate. Senate aides from Ramirez’s home state of Colorado alerted a lawyer, Stanley Garnett, a former Democratic district attorney in Boulder, who currently represents her."

By the way, Colorado Senator Michael Bennet was reportedly the conduit between Ramirez and Garnett. He announced his opposition to Kavanaugh earlier this month. Meanwhile, at 11 a.m. today, September 24, Republican Senator Cory Gardner's Denver office, at 721 19th Street, is scheduled to be the site of a Kavanaugh-related protest by Indivisible Front Range Resistance, Indivisible Denver, Women's Lobby of Colorado, The Resistance 5280 and Indivisible Colorado District 6.

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A screen capture from the article in which Deborah Ramirez shared her story about Brett Kavanaugh publicly for the first time.
Like Christine Blasey Ford, who's accused Kavanaugh of attempted sexual assault, Ramirez is asking for an FBI investigation — and there are already calls for a Thursday senatorial hearing at which Ford has agreed to testify to be postponed given the new information.

Kavanaugh, for his part, maintains in a statement that "this alleged event from 35 years ago did not happen. The people who knew me then know that this did not happen, and have said so. This is a smear, plain and simple. I look forward to testifying on Thursday about the truth, and defending my good name — and the reputation for character and integrity I have spent a lifetime building — against these last-minute allegations."

White House spokeswoman Kerri Kupec echoed Kavanaugh's words in her own remarks: "This 35-year-old, uncorroborated claim is the latest in a coordinated smear campaign by the Democrats designed to tear down a good man. This claim is denied by all who were said to be present and is wholly inconsistent with what many women and men who knew Judge Kavanaugh at the time in college say. The White House stands firmly behind Judge Kavanaugh."

How long President Donald Trump, who has also been accused of past sexual impropriety, will continue to do so is unclear at this point. Given that the Heritage Foundation, another institution with Colorado roots (it was co-founded by Joseph Coors), has a long list of potential Supreme Court nominees with an ideology that mirrors Kavanaugh's, Trump could choose to force his latest nominee's resignation and move on. But he's already displayed a proclivity for continuing fights long after others would have raised the white flag.

However the matter develops over the next few days, Colorado is back in the national spotlight. And at this point, no one should be surprised by that.

Update: This post has been updated to reflect the transition of the Deborah Ramirez case from Stan Garnett to John Clune.
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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