Kurt Riggin: Supreme Court rejects contempt charge in Park County medical marijuana case

For almost a year, Kurt Riggin has been fighting accusations that he illegally acted as an attorney back in October 2009 while trying to aid a medical marijuana-using cancer patient allegedly being harassed by the Park County Sheriff's Office. And while the Supreme Court has now rejected the state's case against him, he still faces charges in Park County stemming from the same incident -- a situation he sees as the equivalent of "double jeopardy."

Riggin is a member of the Federal Bar Association who represents several Native American tribes. However, he's not licensed to practice law in the State of Colorado -- and in 2008, the Supreme Court accepted a judge's recommendation that he be barred from acting as an attorney here following several complaints that he'd been doing just that.

Cut to October 2009, when Riggin, accompanied by medical marijuana advocate Timothy Tipton, traveled to Park County, where a Tipton friend said he'd been harassed by the local sheriff's office for treating his pancreatic cancer with medical marijuana. Riggin then filed what he calls "an informal administrative complaint" against the deputy in question. When asked if he was an attorney, he answered affirmatively and noted that he is an FBA member -- but he says he made it clear that "I wasn't there to represent anyone." Nonetheless, he was charged with felony intimidation of an officer and criminal impersonation for allegedly misrepresenting himself as an attorney approved to practice law in Colorado. These counts led to Riggin being hauled before the Supreme Court's Office of the Presiding Disciplinary Judge on the assertion that he'd violated the 2008 order against him.

In the end, though, the Supreme Court found that Riggin didn't do anything wrong by saying he was a lawyer, since no evidence was presented to contradict this self-identification. And a recording of his conversation with a Park County corporal supported Riggin's version of events -- namely that he'd specifically said he wasn't representing the cancer patient. Read the entire ruling below.

Despite being exonerated in this instance, Riggin admits to still being "pissed" about the harassment of the patient and the decision of Park County authorities to go after him rather than to focus on his complaints. And news that the original deputy the patient accused of harassment is no longer employed by Park County, and the corporal who interviewed him has since been demoted, leaves him dissatisfied as well, given that the felony intimidation and criminal impersonation beefs haven't formally been dropped. The next hearing in the matter is scheduled for next month.

Could the complaints be dropped before then? A lawyer representing Riggin thinks so -- and his client does as well. "I've already been tried for filing a complaint in the Supreme Court," Riggin notes. "It would be double jeopardy to try me twice for the same offense. And since the Supreme Court tried and exonerated me for contempt, I don't see how they can say, 'He's committed a crime.'"

Here's the aforementioned document:

People of Colorado vs. Kurt Riggin: Supreme Court ruling

More from our Follow That Story archive: "Medical marijuana persecution vs. improper law practice: CO Supreme Court slaps Kurt Riggin."

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
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