Off Limits

If Planet Hollywood hadn't become Planet Hasbeen, Arnold Schwarzenegger might be the governor of Colorado. Or maybe Gary Coleman would be giving Bill Owens a run for his money. Instead, both stars -- one big in stature and cultural clout, one substantially lacking in both -- are among the almost 200 people who have declared their intention to become candidates in California's upcoming recall election. And both actors have played supporting roles on the Denver scene.

Schwarzenegger's Pumping Bricks company invested in LoDo warehouses before the lower downtown area had even acquired its yupscale nickname. At one point, after both baseball and brewpubs hit, his property at 18th and Wazee streets was slated to become a major project, Stadium Walk, complete with a Planet Hollywood. And when Schwarzenegger came to town to survey the possibilities, devout fans and hungry developers alike swooned. But Planet Hollywood took a free fall, and the deal was Terminated.

Gary Coleman, meanwhile, set his pint-sized sights on Highlands Ranch. After his boffo turn as Arnold on Diff'rent Strokes ended, TV had relatively few parts for little actors with big mouths. So Coleman retired to a model home -- billed as the Busy Woman's Dream House because of all its labor-saving amenities -- in Denver's 'burbs, looking for jobs in the security business and spending his spare time at Caboose Hobbies. But after a while, even the built-in vacuum systems and choo-choos lost their charm, and Coleman, too, headed back to California.

If Arianna Huffington has ties here, too, we don't want to know about them.

Thou doth protest too much: Colorado really should give thanks to Kobe Bryant for lending a certain je ne sais quoi to the state's current bold-faced-jailbirds image. What with the federal Supermax facility in Florence becoming terrorist central -- Richard Reid! Ramzi Yousef! Ted Kaczynski! -- and all the public hand-wringing over prison sentences for the protesting nuns, it would otherwise seem as if Colorado specialized only in political prisoners.

Just last week, James Floyd Cleaver -- who burned down the Colorado Springs IRS offices in 1997 -- was found guilty in U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch's courtroom. Cleaver's famous relatives -- his mother-in-law is Mary Anne Tebedo, a former state senator, and his brother-in-law is Kevin Tebedo, co-founder of Colorado for Family Values -- curried him no favor with the jury. Now he's scheduled to be sentenced in October, not only for destruction of government property, but also for trying to get a witness to lie to a grand jury and then threatening that same witness. Matsch gave one of Cleaver's fellow anti-tax activists/arsonists, Jack Dowell, thirty years in prison last month and ordered him to pay $2.2 million in restitution to the insurance company.

Matsch, who in 1997 presided over the Oklahoma City bombing trial -- Colorado's biggest political case, albeit one transplanted from the neighboring state -- didn't hand down the sentences for sisters Carol Gilbert, Jackie Hudson and Ardeth Platte last month. That fell to his fellow man in black, U.S. District Judge Robert Blackburn. The three nuns had been charged with injury/interference/obstruction of the National Defense and injury of Property of the United States for beating on the top of a Minuteman III silo in Weld County. Oh, and there was some blood-smearing as well. The 66-year-old Platte earned the heftiest sentence at 41 months in the pen; next was 55-year-old Gilbert, who will pay two years and nine months for her misdeeds; Hudson, who is 68, will beat her out of the hoosegow by three months. Attorneys Walter Gerash, Scott Poland and Susan Tyburski intend to appeal.

The nuns would probably have gotten a hero's welcome in Boulder, where Republican Matt Dempsey had his day in court last month. In one of the rare highlights of last year's nasty-yet-mind-numbing senatorial campaign between Wayne Allard and Tom Strickland, Dempsey shouted such catchy phrases as "toxic Tom" and "lawyer lobbyist" through a bullhorn to rile supporters of Strickland, his boss's opponent, on Boulder's Pearl Street Mall. The Republican Party didn't find his arrest quite so amusing, however, and sent in their biggest gun, Mike Norton, U.S. attorney under presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush the Elder (and husband of the current lite governor, Jane Norton), to defend Dempsey. The jury still found him guilty on a misdemeanor charge of disrupting a rally, and Boulder County Court Judge Carolyn Hoye Enichen sentenced him to a whopping $459 fine -- which Norton and company plan to appeal.

Seven more serious protesters -- Boulderites Charley Cropley, Sabrina Sideris and Cara Rosingana, as well as Rita Ramseyer, Janet Roberts, Nancy Campbell and Cheryl Distaso -- went on trial in the City of Family Values this past spring. Even ace defense attorneys David Lane, Andrea Faley and Boulder County public defender Cary Lacklen couldn't convince a Colorado Springs jury that the protesters had simply been trying to preserve this country for its children when they demonstrated at Peterson Air Force Base on February 15. Colorado Springs Municipal Court Judge Gary Seckman ordered each of the Peterson Patriot Activists to pay $310 or do 45 hours of community service for trespassing and blocking traffic on Academy Boulevard -- activities that had forced (forced!) the police to break up the protest with tear gas. (Cropley spent six nights in jail for refusing to pay the fine.) Maybe the tear gas made Seckman a wee bit lenient with this crew: He'd fined three other protesters $333 each in December for doing the exact same thing (minus the gas) on August 9, 2002.

If people would just focus their activist energy on Denver, they'd find we have a very tolerant system for this sort of thing. Linda Hardesty, one of twenty people arrested on January 27 in front of Halliburton Energy Services (Vice President Dick Cheney is the former CEO) for protesting the United States' role in Iraq, was punished with a mere $52 plus court costs for trespassing, loitering and refusing to obey an order from a police officer by Denver County Court Judge Aleene Ortiz-White. And Hardesty even defended herself. Kate Goodspeed, Robert Peter Conklin and Robin Kibler didn't fare much worse in front of Denver County Court Judge Robert Patterson. Goodspeed's lawyer, Michael Meyrick, got her loitering charge dismissed, which left her with a $100 fine plus the obligatory payments for trespassing and failure to obey an officer; Conklin, the former regional coordinator for the Colorado Department of Education and an elementary-school principal, pleaded guilty to trespassing and slapped down a C-note; and Kibler got a year of probation and forty hours of community service, thanks to lawyer Dennis McElwee. Judge Mary Celeste was equally lenient, sentencing Carolyn Bninski, who works for the Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center (which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year) to forty hours of community service and $38 for trespassing and refusing to take orders. At least attorney Margaret Carey managed to convince Celeste that Bninski wasn't loitering.

We'll know next month how Arapahoe County stacks up on the Activist Arrest-o-Meter when 18th Judicial District Judge Richard Jauch sentences Melissa Rossman, Chris Friedman, Bninski, Andrew Tirman, Andy Bennett, Rachel Kaplan and Carrie Hoppes. The "Collateral Damage," as the defendants call themselves, were arrested last December for staging a sit-in on the floor of Senator Allard's Littleton office, demanding that he meet with them about the upcoming war. At 5 p.m., police were called to remove the demonstrators. (Apparently, Allard only finds such behavior amusing when it's not directed at him.) Fellow Damager Benjamin Long didn't want to risk what might be handed out by the long arm of Arapahoe County law, and so pleaded guilty in exchange for a deferred sentence. The rest of the protesters face a maximum sentence of $750 each and six months in the county slammer; they'll be back in court September 26.

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