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LIFE ON THE EDGE

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One day, claims Young, whose prior contact with police consisted of two drug arrests in 1985, a police officer handed him thirty summonses at once, all of them connected with working on his car in the driveway.

The Youngs then asked police chief Alan Pfeuffer to mediate a discussion between them and Dorris, which the chief agreed to do. He settled the dispute by getting Tim Young to agree to work on the car only during certain times of the day and to finish the car and remove it from his grandmother's yard within a designated period.

That stopped the police visits for a time. But in the summer of 1993, says Tim Young, Dorris complained that Young had "watched" her as she walked past his grandmother's house. "Within minutes," says Young, "a police officer arrived, asking me not to stare at Doris."

For Young, the events of September 17, 1993, proved the last straw.
That afternoon Young had a run-in with substitute mailman Leroy Usel, who'd left a neighbor's letters in Young's mailbox. It was the third time that week that he had misdelivered Young's mail, Usel acknowledged in his statement to police. The irate Young called Usel an "asshole" and, according to Usel's statement to police, began "pushing out his chest, clinching his fist and moving toward [Usel] in a threatening manner."

The ever-alert Dorris heard the commotion and called police. The cops let Young go with a warning. But that was before he phoned Dorris to berate her for summoning the cops.

After Young's phone call, Dorris called police a second time. Young, she told officers, had called her an obscene name and complained that "you didn't waste any time calling the fuckin' cops." He also said, she claimed, "I'll get even."

Young disagrees with the exact wording of Dorris's statement, but admits that her overall description of the call is accurate. Police arrived at his door at 6 p.m. and handed him two summonses--one for harassing Usel, and another for harassing Dorris. He figured it was a minor matter, and didn't hire an attorney.

Last January 4, after a trial in Edgewater municipal court (which doubles as the city council chambers), Klein sentenced Young to nine months in jail and fined him $2,500. Young went straight to the Jefferson County jail. Then he hired an attorney, hoping to get Klein to reconsider his sentence. Klein heard the arguments on February 1.

Attorney Bill Carpenter asked Klein to either reduce Young's sentence to time served or to grant him work release or home detention. Usel told Klein he would go along with whatever the judge decided. Even the prosecutor offered no objections to Carpenter's request. Only Doris Dorris disagreed. And Klein sided with her.

Grace Young was furious. She complained to everyone she could think of. And when she ran across information about Klein's past--namely, that he was a convicted felon--she was only too happy to share it in a meeting with Chief Pfeuffer and Mayor Roger Mariola. She expected the mayor and chief to be appalled at what she'd learned.

Instead, she says, she was shocked to learn that both men were already well aware of Klein's background. Klein had been appointed by Mariola's predecessor, Joe McDonald, and although Mariola could have appointed his own municipal judge, he chose to retain Klein despite his past. "He's a good guy, and firm, and that's the kind of judge I want," Mariola says.

Klein, a diminutive man with a shock of gray hair whose fashion tastes lean toward eye-catching jewelry, says he has since received phone calls from people who have threatened to go public with his past if he doesn't change his sentence in the Young case. But he claims not to be upset by the brouhaha. He stands behind the sentence he gave Tim Young, he says. The case involved an elderly woman who had her life threatened after reporting a crime, Klein says, adding that Young is lucky he wasn't charged with "obstructing a federal official" for interfering with mailman Usel. And the judge says his past is an open book, one that has been read and reread numerous times over the past twenty-some years.

And what interesting reading it is.

Klein, a Denver native and graduate of the law school at the University of Denver, was once a rising star in local politics. In 1956 he was elected as a Democratic state representative from northwest Denver and went on to serve seven terms. He won a state senate seat in 1970.

But Klein wasn't doing so well outside the political arena. The Denver Bar Association's grievance committee began an investigation of him in 1970 after another attorney complained that the state representative had delayed handling a client's claim and had refused to hand over the client's files. Ordinarily, the matter wouldn't have been a big deal. But the situation snowballed out of control when Klein tried to cover up his actions.

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Karen Bowers