Longform

The Lords of Payback

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Purnell claims that Cinquanta called her several times to urge her to check out new documents posted on the site: "Mr. Cinquanta stated that his friend had lots more documents and Zinna will be finished."

Michael Murphy, the former boyfriend of Congrove associate Kathy Redmond, declares in his affidavit: "Ms. Redmond told me that it was Mr. Congrove who had arranged to set up the 'spoof' website attacking Mr. Zinna...Mr. Congrove had informed her that he arranged for posting on the 'wacko' website material from Jefferson County's files on Mr. Zinna."

Former county commissioner Auburn recalls that Congrove was looking for someone with web savvy shortly before ColoradoWackoExposed appeared. "A suggestion had been made on several occasions by Mr. Congrove that we needed to find someone to put that site up," Auburn said in a deposition. "He had given me the entire criminal record of Mr. Zinna and would hold it up and say, 'We need all those documents posted on the website.' I scoffed it off, because in no way was I ever going to be a party to such activity."

At some point after that conversation, Auburn added, he saw an anonymous e-mail announcing that the site was now live. Other county employees saw the same message.

Congrove has steadfastly denied any involvement in creating or developing ColoradoWackoExposed. He says Auburn's account is dead wrong: "Dave is badly mistaken. He must be a little upset about losing that election." (Auburn lost his bid for re-election in 2006 and says Congrove actively campaigned against him.)

To this day no one has taken responsibility for the content of ColoradoWackoExposed, which was online for only a few weeks in 2006. If the site had merely posted public-records materials about Zinna, that wouldn't be much of a concern. But Zinna claims that the people behind the site violated federal wiretapping statutes in their efforts to ruin him financially and otherwise. "The organization ColoradoWackoExposed," he says, "is a criminal enterprise."

On June 14, 2006, Zinna was working on his e-mail at home when he saw an unfamiliar sedan outside, loaded with electronic equipment. The next day, ColoradoWacko posted "a public WARNING for those considering doing business with Michael Zinna." The page dished about potential radio projects and sponsors, a proposed meeting with the editor of Westword, bars Zinna liked to frequent — even some messy allegations about his sex life. Much of the material had been derived from the e-mails Zinna had been writing a few hours earlier; someone had evidently hacked into his wi-fi network and intercepted them. Around the same time, packages of Zinna-trashing documents were anonymously mailed or e-mailed to several local media outlets.

Zinna went after every scrap of information he could find about the site. It was supposedly registered to a "Michael Randolph" in Belize, but he ultimately tracked the site back to Robert Cook of Lakewood — a man who, years earlier, had helped set up the official website of the Jefferson County Republican Party.

Cook was a familiar figure around the Taj. He showed up at commissioners' meetings to complain about county taxes, made the circuit of GOP breakfast get-togethers and had even met with Congrove in his office. This was significant, in Zinna's view; in addition to attacking him, ColoradoWacko also made a point of praising Congrove: "If you had to leave the country for a year, or longer, you could trust Jim with your life savings and your wife. Upon your return they would all be in tact [sic]."

Congrove had encouraged Cook to apply for the job of county information technology director, but he didn't get the position. Cook described himself as a "sovereign American" and claimed that the court system didn't have authority over him. Zinna sued him anyway.

Cook claimed not to know who had hired him to set up the website. In a deposition, he described finding a package at his door one evening that contained $200 in cash, documents about Zinna and a request to launch ColoradoWackoExposed. He said he created the website, then returned the original documents to the source and handed over control of the site through the same second-rate-spy-thriller means of communication.

Zinna has yet to make a criminal complaint about the raid on his e-mails two years ago. "It's coming," he says. "I just don't want to see another investigation result in no charges."

Ironically, Zinna's daily webcast (on zinna.com) no longer deals with county or even state issues. He says he prefers to talk about national issues and doesn't want to further complicate the ongoing litigation. Several other players in the Taj intrigues of the past few years have changed their focus, too.

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Alan Prendergast has been writing for Westword for over thirty years. He teaches journalism at Colorado College; his stories about the justice system, historic crimes, high-security prisons and death by misadventure have won numerous awards and appeared in a wide range of magazines and anthologies.
Contact: Alan Prendergast