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Revenge of the gadflies: Douglas Bruce and Mike Zinna win free-speech verdicts

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How odd, yet oddly fitting, that this week two of the state's most dogged and outspoken government critics won key victories in separate courtrooms within hours of each other. Call it a blow for... outspokenness.

Down in Colorado Springs, the perpetually cranky Douglas Bruce has prevailed in his quest to collect petition signatures outside a Costco store without harassment by jackbooted enforcers trying to keep big-box parking lots annoyance-free. As pointed out in an earlier blog about the inherent masochism involved in prosecuting Bruce, the former lawmaker did his best to make city officials pay for what he regarded as blatant retaliation. At one point, government in the Springs was at almost a standstill while the courthouse halls teemed with subpoenaed bureaucrats.

Meanwhile, in a federal courtroom in Denver, Jefferson County nemesis and talk-show host Mike Zinna has finally scored a victory in his long-running battle with current and former county officials. A jury found that former county commissioner Jim Congrove had violated Zinna's free-speech rights by seeking to silence him at county hearings and hiring a private investigator to tail him and dig up dirt.

Zinna's weird waltz with Jeffco has been examined in several Westword features, including "The Lords of Payback." On Wednesday the jury decided to award him $1,791, a figure inspired by the year the First Amendment was ratified. But the decision also sticks the county with hefty attorneys' fees for defending Congrove, as well as the costs of Zinna's lawyers.

"They were dead right out of the gate," Zinna says of his opponents.

And it ain't over yet. Zinna has another case pending against Congrove and others for wiretapping and defamation, claiming a conspiracy to hack into his computers for personal info that later appeared on an anonymous website. The potential damages in that case, he says, could run to "tens of millions of dollars."

Maybe talk is cheap, but shutting up somebody can cost a bundle.

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