Last November, we introduced you to Eric Brandt, who's well-known in the metro area for riding a bicycle while displaying a giant hand, complete with extended middle finger, that's emblazoned with the phrase "FUCK COPS."
At the time, Brandt's attorney, David Lane, had just filed a lawsuit against the City of Westminster and the community's mayor, Herb Atchison, after his client was arrested at a Westminster City Council meeting for doing nothing more than speaking as scheduled during a public-comments segment. The lawsuit is still pending at this writing.
Since then, Brandt has continued to stir the ire of authorities. In February, we told you that he'd received a ninety-day sentence for chalking a sidewalk with an anti-police message.
The latest? Brandt posted police reports on Facebook documenting discipline handed out to a Westminster police officer for allegedly telling Brandt that he would "break every fucking finger on your hand."
A judge ordered Brandt to take the pages offline by 7 p.m. Monday, August 10, or he'd be held in contempt.
However, Brandt couldn't do so — because he was in a Denver jail following his arrest for passing out jury nullification pamphlets in front of the Lindsay-Flanigan Courthouse.
The documents appear to have been removed at this writing — but Westword obtained copies of them before they disappeared; these public records are on view below. Meanwhile, attorney Lane decries the order to take them down, as well as the charges against Brandt in Denver, which he characterizes as free-speech violations of the sort that put Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey in the philosophical company of Russian leader Vladimir Putin.
The DA's office has declined to comment about this description or the case against Brandt beyond the police report, shared here along with the aforementioned documents and the original lawsuit — and Lane, who also represents Mark Iannicelli, who faces similar allegations in regard to jury-nullification fliers, predicts that more complaints will follow.
"Every DA who signed off on this as a prosecution, I'm taking them to federal court when all of this is done," he says.
The police reports Brandt posted online pertain to an October 31, 2014 incident in Westminster involving Sergeant Jim Buckner.
When Buckner saw Brandt in a park wearing a "FUCK THE POLICE" jacket, he told him to leave, citing a violation of park rules.
When Brandt refused to do so, he was taken into custody — and in the patrol car, Brandt allegedly told him that he "was going to get him, sue him and then hurt him," the investigation synopsis states.
"When Brandt was asked if he was threatening a police officer, Brandt replied, 'I didn't threaten you, worry about your whole family,'" the report continues.
What's not mentioned in this particular passage, but turns up elsewhere, is Buckner's reply, as quoted by Brandt: "Sergeant Bucker told me, 'Some people have to follow the rules. I don't. I'm gonna fuck you up tonight and break every fucking finger on your hand."
Despite Brandt's less-than-sterling reputation among police officers, Buckner's WPD superiors decided that these comments went too far, as an investigatory document notes. It reads:
After review of the contents of this investigation, I have concluded that Sergeant Buckner made a comment to Mr. Brandt that he should not have made. I believe Buckner's comment was a direct result of a credible threat made to Sergeant Buckner by Mr. Brandt, that being to find the sergeant's family and harm them. In this and other interactions with Mr. Brandt, Sergeant Buckner should have known the propensity of Mr. Brandt to push the right button with our employees to get them to react. Throughout the contact, it was obvious that Mr. Brand was searching for such a button with Sergeant Buckner. He landed on it when talking about Buckner's family. Although the specific words, their implied meaning, and whether or not they were embellished by either Brandt or Sergeant Buckner, are not known, it is clear that Buckner clearly related what he would do should his family been threatened. Again, I believe these comments tecnically violating the Code of Ethics, but were in response to a direct and credible threat. It is clear that Mr. Brandt knew he succeeded in pushing the right button when Sergeant Buckner reacted with his comments. This is clear from Mr. Brandt's reaction as he smiled and flipped off Sergeant Buckner....
Sergeant Buckner is to be counseled for inappropriately responding to what was clearly an antagonistic attempt by a person known for such conduct. He should know what his "button" is and be conscious of when it is being pushed. This is mitigated, in my mind, as our own families are sacrosanct and our natural reaction is to clearly react in a way to protect them. This is particularly true with Sergeant Buckner, as one of his close family members that he lives with is special needs and may be particularly vulnerable.
Buckner is to be counseled as to this behavior and a note paced in his file by Commander Wilson.
Attorney Lane feels disciplining Buckner via counseling is woefully insufficient.
"This was a crime," he says. "If Eric Brandt had said that, Eric Brandt would be prosecuted. There's no doubt about that. But this cop is not being prosecuted, because there's a repressive government in Westminster that will not prosecute cops who break the law."
As for why the Westminster judge "threatened Eric with contempt of court and jail" if he didn't remove the documents from Facebook, Lane's theory is simple: "They are trying to hide the fact that Sergeant Buckner was disciplined for threatening Eric Brandt."
Of course, Brandt couldn't remove the documents by the deadline set for the order because he was behind bars in a different jurisdiction. "I said to the Westminster City Attorney, 'It'll be interesting when you try to get a computer to Eric at the Denver County jail so he can comply,'" Lane recalls.
Why was Brandt in custody? Because in late July, he and Iannicelli had set up camp outside the courthouse in Denver and were passing out fliers that featured phrases such as "Your Jury Rights: True or False? What rights do you have as a juror that THE JUDGE WON'T TELL YOU" and "All You Need to Know About Jury Nullification (but were prevented from hearing)."
What is jury nullification? According to Lane, "One of the hallmarks of our country is that jurors have the power to not enforce bad laws, despite the fact that the prosecutor has proven guilt. You would see it when marijuana was illegal: Jurors would simply not convict people because they thought the law was unjust. It's a power jurors have and a power that judges and prosecutors take great pains to tell jurors they don't have. Libertarians and others believe jurors act as a bulwark between a free society and a tyrannical society — and they believe that jurors should take part in jury nullification if there's an unjust law."
In Brandt's arrest affidavit, however, officers determined that the fliers "would be in violation of the Colorado Revised Statute regarding jury tampering" — a particularly sensitive subject, because, as the document notes, the death-penalty trial of Dexter Lewis, who's now been convicted of killing five people at Fero's Bar & Grill in 2012, was taking place at the time. Hence the arrest of Iannicelli, followed several days later by Brandt. Both have been charged with multiple counts of jury tampering.
To Lane, these charges are both absurd and offensive.
"They weren't talking about any particular case and they didn't even know the Dexter Lewis case was in the building," he says. "They'd never heard of the Dexter Lewis case. They were giving this literature to anyone who was walking by, educating people about various rights and powers they have. And that's all they were doing.
"This is Vladimir Putin-like," Lane continues. "There was an outcry internationally when the band Pussy Riot went to jail for breaking into song inside of a church. That's what got them sent to jail in that repressive society. And this is no different from those kinds of actions that we see in totalitarian societies. That this kind of conduct is the subject of prosecution tells us that we've lost our freedoms. Mitch Morrissey should be ashamed of himself."
Below, see the latest mug shots of Brandt and Iannicelli, followed by the Westminster police documents previously posted on Facebook, the arrest affidavit in the jury nullification case and the 2014 lawsuit.
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