Reporter Keli Rabon's 7News story about the rate at which Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey declines to prosecute sex assault cases would attract attention under any circumstances. But at least as interesting are several videos featuring Morrissey, including an uncut, nine-minutes-plus clip in which he rips Rabon and suggests that her use of editing is unfair. See it and much more below.
Why air such criticism? Jeff Harris, news director for 7News, explains.
"It's not something we normally do," admits Harris about the decision to offer the complete encounter between Rabon and Morrissey outside his office, which the DA deems an ambush. "But given the content of his responses, we felt it was appropriate to do so. And we also think that because he's an elected official, it was important for his constituency to see how he responded to what we believe, and others are telling us, is a very important issue."
In the video, Rabon and her camera operator race up to Morrissey and ask him questions about her story, which asserts that the Denver DA's office "declines to prosecute 36 percent of all felonies and 71 percent of all felony sex assaults that Denver police bring to prosecutors" -- rates much higher than those registered by many prosecutors locally and across the country.
Rather than respond to Rabon's queries, Morrissey says repeatedly, in a tone of exaggerated calm, that he would be happy to discuss the matter off camera -- and when we say "repeatedly," we really mean it.
Back in 2012, Representative Mike Coffman became a national laughingstock when he responded to 9News correspondent Kyle Clark's questions about birther comments directed at President Barack Obama by saying "I stand by my statement that I misspoke and I apologize" five times in a row. But Morrissey utters variations on the happy-to-talk-off-camera line much more frequently -- the count may actually reach into the dozens.
Amid these repetitions, however, he tells Rabon the reason he won't speak to her on-camera despite requests that she says go back five months is because he thinks she edits stories in a way that's unfair.
Morrissey specifically cites a November report about local police departments failing to test thousands of rape kits. Here's that story:
Continue for more about 7News and Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey, including multiple videos. The rape-kit report may not have fit Morrissey's definition of fairness, but it certainly got the attention of lawmakers such as Republican Frank McNulty, who eventually sponsored House Bill 1020. According to the Colorado GOP website, the measure "requires the Department of Public Safety to adopt standards for when evidence collected after a sexual assault is submitted and when it must be analyzed and compared to DNA databases."
Here's a 7News piece about the bill after it unanimously passed the House Judiciary Committee:
The measure's legislative winning streak continued from there, with the bill ultimately winning approval from both chambers of the Colorado legislature. It went to the desk of Governor John Hickenlooper on May 8, the last day of the 2013 session, and he's expected to sign it.
Morrissey's comments about the rape-kit report are general, not specific, in his exchange with Rabon. But when it came to their subsequent meeting about the sex-assault prosecution story, he amended the off-camera requirement -- by having a staff member set up one on his behalf while prohibiting 7News from using its own. The station managed to work around this restriction, though. Afterward, when Morrissey again refused to do an on-camera interview with Rabon, the station obtained the DA's office footage via an open-records request and shared it as well. See the two-part exchange below.
Why was it so important for Rabon to speak with Morrissey on-camera?
"We're a video-driven medium," notes news director Harris. "Our interviews are on-camera. We'd had numerous conversations on the record and on background with folks from the office -- just not him. But because he's the decision-maker, and an elected official, we felt it was our duty to get a response from him.
"In the end, he chose never to sit down with our cameras," Harris continues. "But we found through open records a decent-enough medium to provide that perspective for our viewers."
As for Rabon, Harris stands behind her "100 percent. She's done excellent reporting on meaningful subject matter."
What about the DA's criticism of her work? In Harris's words, "Mitch Morrissey has never been interviewed by Keli Rabon and has no idea how she edits -- because he's never been a part of her stories."
Odds are good he won't be making an appearance anytime soon, either.
Continue for four videos related to Mitch Morrissey and sexual assault prosecution. Here's the story 7News broadcast about the rate at which the Denver District Attorney's Office declines to prosecute sexual assault cases:
This is the uncut video of Rabon and Morrissey outside his office. Note that he says on more than one occasion that the station will never run the footage of him criticizing her.
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And here's the video shot by Morrissey's staff of his conversation with Rabon. First, part one:
And part two:
More from our Politics archive: "Videos: Rachel Maddow makes Mike Coffman national laughingstock."