Douglas Bruce, DA agree not to hold each other in contempt

Tax crusader Douglas Bruce headed into a Colorado Springs grand jury room earlier this week defiant and expansive, determined not to be "bullied" or silenced and half expecting to go to jail for taking a stand -- by not taking the stand.

He emerged with a grant of immunity and is sworn to secrecy. And the rest of us still don't have a clue what the hush-hush investigation is all about.

Bruce has been battling subpoenas and politically charged inquiries on several fronts of late. Despite a claimed 29 efforts to serve him with a summons, he was conspicuously absent from weeks of state hearings probing alleged campaign finance violations in three anti-tax petitions on this year's ballot, Amendments 60 and 61 and Proposition 101.

As first reported here, administrative law judge Robert Spencer fined the three principal proponents of the measures and concluded that Bruce had a significant behind-the-scenes role in the petition process. The former state lawmaker has denied a direct role in the 60-61-101 campaigns and insists that the subpoenas were never served on him.

But Colorado Attorney General John Suthers is now pursuing a contempt citation against Bruce over the matter, leading to a scathing e-mail rejoinder from Bruce to Suthers that he's posted on his website. (Sample: "I have done nothing wrong, as you will soon find out to your deep and very public embarrassment.")

But all that hubbub is apparently unconnected to the latest showdown in the Springs over Bruce's reluctance to testify before a grand jury in an ongoing criminal investigation. Bruce received subpoenas in the matter twice and filed motions to quash each time, arguing that the entire shady proceeding smacked of attempts to intimidate him and muzzle his political activities. He particularly didn't like the idea that he wasn't even supposed to tell anyone he was subpoenaed.

"I do not know what these proceedings may be about, but my reporting these inept attempts to haul me in for interrogation clearly cannot be stopped," he wrote in the second motion. "I have the same freedom of speech as [the prosecutor] does. This is an attempt to coerce me into participating in a cover up of these bully tactics toward witnesses.

"This patriot refuses to participate."

Hours before heading into the grand jury room earlier this week, Bruce told Westword that the planned to invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and refuse to testify. In fact, he was considering refusing to be sworn in, since he would be prohibited from publicly discussing anything that was brought up in the grand jury room.

"I'm not going to take the oath," he said.

Bruce apparently did just that, prompting District Attorney Dan May to seek contempt proceedings against him. But according to this article in the Colorado Springs Gazette, the head-butting got resolved the next day, with Bruce agreeing to testify next week after receiving assurances from May that the case wasn't targeting Bruce's politics, that Bruce is merely a witness, and that nothing he says will be used against him.

So Bruce is now free to tell the grand jury all he knows about whatever they're investigating -- but not free to tell anyone else. In some quarters, the prospect of a publicly mute Douglas Bruce may be a cause for celebration, but it does prompt some head-scratching.

More on Bruce and Colorado's hard-fought petition wars coming in the next issue of Westword.

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Alan Prendergast has been writing for Westword for over thirty years. He teaches journalism at Colorado College; his stories about the justice system, historic crimes, high-security prisons and death by misadventure have won numerous awards and appeared in a wide range of magazines and anthologies.
Contact: Alan Prendergast