| News |

Year in Review: The 2013 Hall of Shame, part one

Keep Westword Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Denver and help keep the future of Westword free.

Every year, we bring you the best examples of the worst behavior we can find from the past 365 days of news stories. And from secessionists to bigoted bakers to Tom Martino and Mother Nature, there was plenty of shame and shmuckery to go around in the 2013 Hall of Shame.

We selected the ten most egregious offenders of common decency for your reading pleasure; here are the first five. (Be sure to check back tomorrow for the rest.)

Secessionists Colorado became a microcosm for the nation in 2013 when the red-state-blue-state phenomenon turned into a red-county-blue-county movement. Weld County, Colorado's ninth largest by population, led the charge when the commissioners there -- tired of their liberal, same-sex-marrying, pot-smoking, renewable-energy-loving, anti-mass-murder neighbors to the south -- floated a plan to leave Colorado and form their own state of North Colorado, or Weldistan, as it was popularly known; ten other counties followed suit. (One wanted to join Wyoming.) "The people of rural Colorado are mad, and they have every right to be," U.S. Representative Cory Gardner told the Denver Post. "The governor and his Democrat colleagues in the Statehouse have assaulted our way of life, and I don't blame these people one bit for feeling attacked and unrepresented by the leaders of our state." Assaulted and attacked -- you know, like when leaders of the state helped Weld residents recover from devastating floods this fall, worked to control a massive whooping-cough outbreak there and processed Weld County residents' precious concealed-weapons permits (the county has issued 10,000 over the past ten years). Fortunately ----or unfortunately, depending on your point of view -- Weldistanians voted to stay a part of Colorado, although several other counties have elected to keep investigating ways to secede. Don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.

Sam Carter and Brent Curnow Maybe it was quicker than heading down to the grocery store for some beef patties, or maybe Boulder police officers Sam Carter and Brent Curnow are just jerks. Either way, both men resigned from their jobs last year and were charged with several crimes after it was revealed that they had been involved in the killing of a massive bull elk at the corner of Ninth Street and Mapleton Avenue in Boulder and then tried to cover up their actions. The case began on New Year's Day, when it was reported that an officer, later identified as Carter, was on a routine patrol when he saw an elk that appeared to be injured and decided to shoot it for humane reasons. Curnow, who was off duty, then hauled the elk away and processed it for meat. It was later revealed, however, that the two men had been planning to kill the elk for hours -- and never reported the incident to their supervisors. A necropsy also showed that the trophy elk, which was apparently beloved in the neighborhood where it was killed, wasn't injured before the shooting. Elkgate, as it was called, provoked a huge amount of controversy and inspired memorials, major media attention and a Facebook page. Curnow eventually pleaded guilty to tampering with evidence, a felony, and four misdemeanors before being sentenced to sixty days of home detention, a $10,000 fine and two years of probation. Carter, who is accused of the shooting itself, will go on trial in January; he faces charges of felony tampering, forgery and misconduct, among others, including violating Samson's Law, an anti-poaching measure.

Justin Smith Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith loves the law. He loves it so much that he earned both his bachelor's and master's degrees in criminal justice. He loves it so much that he has spent his 25-year career enforcing it. He loves it so much that in January, he decided that only he himself could decide which laws were worth enforcing -- and that they don't include any namby-pamby gun-control measures like universal background checks. To back up his position, Smith posted the following message on his Facebook page: "As Sheriff, I will not: Enforce unconstitutional federal laws. Obey unconstitutional laws. Allow others to violate the Constitutional Rights of those in my county." Smith later backed away from his stance, saying that what he meant was that he would fight against such laws. And so he later joined a lawsuit, which included most of the county sheriffs in Colorado, that seeks to overturn the state's recently approved gun-control measures. "We are a cantankerous bunch, and this is our Alamo," he was quoted as saying. Since then, however, several other sheriffs, including Weld County's John Cooke, have also said they may refuse to enforce laws that they deem unconstitutional. For their sake, we hope the residents of their counties don't decide to pick and choose the laws they obey, too. Carly McKinney If you're a female high-school math teacher, it's one thing to tweet a photo of yourself upside down against a wall while twerking -- wearing only your panties. It's quite another, however, if your students and bosses find out about the photo and discover that you've also tweeted photos of yourself naked, smoking pot and drinking booze, and that you've referred to male students as "jailbait" and have claimed to have weed on school grounds. For that, you have to be the one and only CarlyCrunkBear, otherwise known as 23-year-old former Overland High School teacher Carly McKinney. That was the story in January, when McKinney, whose Twitter handle was @crunk_bear, was suspended by the Cherry Creek School District. Besieged by the media, McKinney first claimed that the account was a joke and that she didn't send all the tweets. "Naked. Wet. Stoned," read one. "Watching a drug bust go down in the parking lot. It's funny cuz I have weed in my car in the staff parking lot," read another. McKinney and the district eventually parted ways, but not before an online campaign using the #freecrunkbear hashtag -- a campaign that included some of her students -- got started to save her job. Jack Phillips God wants Jack Phillips to bake cakes. But God does not, under any circumstances, want Phillips, owner of the Masterpiece Cakeshop, to bake wedding cakes for gay couples. As a result, God may force Phillips out of business. Such is God's plan -- a plan that was first devised in July 2012 when Phillips turned away two customers, Charlie Craig and David Mullins, who wanted to celebrate their recent wedding with a cake. When the story became public, it incited a firestorm of online backlash against Masterpiece and a protest; eventually, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a complaint on the couple's behalf with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission. In November, an administrative-law judge listened to arguments on both sides; Phillips argued that gay marriage violates his religious beliefs and claimed that he had the right to deny the couple based on the religious freedom guaranteed by the Constitution. But the judge decided that Masterpiece had discriminated against Craig and Mullins because of their sexual orientation and ordered Phillips to serve gay couples or face fines. "At first blush, it may seem reasonable that a private business should be able to refuse service to anyone it chooses," the judge wrote. "This view, however, fails to take into account the cost to society and the hurt caused to persons who are denied service simply because of who they are." Phillips says he won't be swayed, though, and would rather go to jail than bake cakes for gay couples. "I do what I do because I love doing what I do, and I believe it's what God's designed for me to do," he told Fox News. "I don't plan on giving up my religious beliefs.... I don't feel that I should participate in their wedding, and when I do a cake, I feel like I'm participating in the ceremony or the event or the celebration that the cake is for."

Shameful, right? Come back tomorrow for the next five in our Hall of Shame. From our archives: The 2012 Hall of Shame

Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.


Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.