Most of us support the concept of equal justice, but maybe not in this case...
Inveterate protester Eric Brandt has been ordered to serve ninety days in jail for writing an anti-police message in chalk on a sidewalk in Westminster more than four years ago — the same-length sentence given to former Westminster police officer Curtis Arganbright, who pleaded guilty to unlawful sexual contact and official misconduct while on duty related to a woman he forced to engage in sex acts with him in August 2017.
The connections between the pair? Brandt says Arganbright is the person who arrested him for his sidewalk artwork back in February 2014. And they'll likely be behind bars at the same time. Brandt is supposed to turn himself in this Thursday, December 20, while Arganbright learned about his three months in stir on November 29.
Brandt is aghast at the coincidence. Corresponding via email, he notes that "the arresting officer in The Great Sidewalk Chalk Caper of 2014 got the same jail sentence for his egregious, violent sex crime as the odious Westminster chalker!"
The unusual approach to activism employed by Brandt has made news in Westword plenty of times over the years. Indeed, he recently appeared in our coverage of a $175,000 settlement Commerce City paid to Brandt associate Joshua Condiotti-Wade over a botched arrest — just one of his numerous brushes with the law. Over the years, he's regularly raised hackles at various police agencies, most of them in the north Denver suburbs, over his creative signage, including an oversized representation of a bird-flipping hand bearing the phrase "FUCK COPS."
His fondness for a writing utensil typically associated with grade-school children and sunny days has gotten him into plenty of trouble, too. In his words, "I have been arrested and prosecuted for chalk MANY times. All but one were by Westminster! (Arvada was the other)."
As for the incident for which he's going to be jailed, we shared his account of what happened in a 2015 post. On Facebook, Brandt wrote that on February 17 of the previous year, as a demonstration against what he characterized as "police misconduct in Westminster," he had "sketched an enormous, pot-bellied pig on his back, crying puddles of tears, wearing a Westminster police badge, and emblazoned with the text 'MAKE A PIG WAIL & YOU'LL GO TO JAIL.'"
After he was given a ninety-day sentence for his actions in early 2015, Brandt decried the verdict, which he saw as a violation of his right to free speech. "This is a bad ruling by a bad judge with a grudge," he wrote. "This sets a dangerous precedent, placing every six-year-old in America at risk of beginning a very early criminal career. While my chalk will wash away, this injustice will stain to stay."
With the help of civil-rights attorney David Lane, Brandt has spent years fighting against this incarceration order. But, he reveals, "I finally, officially lost the appeals."
In the meantime, Arganbright has been looking at the criminal justice system from an unfamiliar angle. According to the 17th Judicial District DA office, the officer gave a ride to a 36-year-old woman after she was released from St. Anthony Hospital in Westminster on August 24, 2017. But as they were driving to Broomfield, Arganbright "pulled off of West 144th Avenue near Zuni Street to a dark area and forced the woman to engage in sex acts."
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Four days later, the Broomfield Police Department revealed that Arganbright had been taken into custody on suspicion of three felonies: sexual assault by force, sexual assault by a person in a position of authority and false imprisonment. But in the end, these charges fell away and he admitted guilt to a pair of misdemeanors.
At Arganbright's sentencing hearing late last month, the victim "was physically unable to be present," the DA's office states. "But her mother told the judge that her daughter was brutally raped and suffers extreme PTSD because of Arganbright’s actions."
Thanks to his plea agreement, however, Arganbright received a mere three-month jolt (to be followed by four years of probation), much to Brandt's astonishment. He exclaims that "the officer raped a woman in his patrol car while he was on duty!"
Chalk up another reason for a future Brandt protest — after he's released, of course.