Michael Hancock prostitution-ring link: Alleged broken pledge in mayor-elect/9News/Post spat

The alleged link between mayor-elect Michael Hancock and the Denver Players prostitution ring was kept relatively quiet before Hancock's victory. But even after 7News and Fox31 joined in reporting the story on Thursday, the Denver Post and 9News held off. What made them finally join the fray? Not a treasure trove of new info, but the apparent belief that Hancock's team reneged on a deal to provide info refuting the claims.

The Post's Saturday front-page story is a remarkable account of bargaining between the mayor-elect and two big boys of the Denver press.

The Post and 9News, its broadcast partner, didn't have to be told the primary source for a Complete Colorado article tying Hancock to Denver Players was Scottie Ewing, the escort-service's former owner. In an e-mail to Westword, Ewing wrote that 9News' Deborah Sherman had been looking at his records since at least last November; here's the link to her interview with Hancock denying the claims.

But rather than simply moving forward with this information, the news agencies made records requests to the Denver Police Department for any photos and video showing Hancock at any locations related to Denver Players. Hancock's attorney, Bruce James, did likewise -- something the Post thought would speed up the process. But James asked law enforcement only to inform the outlets if nothing damning turned up -- and nothing did. If actual evidence had popped up, however, he wanted to keep it out of their hands -- a fact first reported by 7News.

What tore it for the Post and 9News, though, was what the paper described as the Hancock braintrust's decision to go back on an "agreement to release unedited copies of his cellphone bills and other records that might show whether he ever placed or received a call to arrange a liaison with a prostitution service." On the Friday evening before the piece above was published, Hancock told the Post, "If what you are asking for is unfettered, unedited, unredacted access to information regarding my financial transactions, regarding my cellphone records, the answer is no."

What to make of the behind-the-scenes deal-making, detailed in another 7News story? The Hancock crew appears to have been stalling in the hope that the reports wouldn't get traction until after the election, and in that effort, they succeeded. But now, the Post and 9News seem aware of the perception that they were played by the mayor-elect, and they're likely to go after this story, and others that emerge over time, with special aggressiveness, to prove they're not overly deferential to the city's new boss.

At least for now, it appears that Hancock's short-term success at smothering the prostitution-ring story could lead to a long-term adversarial relationship with the media, whether any new Denver Players-related evidence surfaces or not.

More from our Media archive: "Michael Hancock prostitution ring story: CBS4 exec on why station hasn't reported it yet."

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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