While reporting criminal news on pro-athletes today has become a bit of a niche industry, the comical and quasi-dramatic way in which it is done not only undermines the true nature of the criminal process, it also seems to somehow make a mockery out of it. Colorado criminal courts, which unfortunately seem to thrive on national attention from mass shootings, sex assault, and domestic violence assaults (allegedly) are no different.
Colorado Avalanche goaltender Semyon Varlamov was in Denver County court today on December 2nd, 2013. That’s right, while most of us Denver criminal lawyers were sitting around posting on Google+ lamenting the sales we missed on cyber-Monday, the Av’s star goalie was doing his own version of Trending.
Those of us Colorado criminal attorneys who practice in the Denver metro area regularly, and are familiar with not only the Denver system, but also the Colorado Domestic Violence statutes under CRS 18-6-800.3 and its progeny, are well aware of the fact that this first appearance advisement was nothing more than routine. Defendant appears with counsel or pro se, defendant is advised of basic Colorado Rule 5 rights (right to counsel, trial, silence, bail, etc.) Defendant is issued a mandatory protection order per Colorado Revised Statutes (CRS) 18-1-1001 which is a garden-variety boiler plate form with all boxes checked and alleged victims name scribbled in. By law, everyone charged under Title 18 gets a mandatory protection order (and FYI, the majority of the Colorado criminal statutes are under Title 18 folks). And furthermore, all domestic violence cases in Colorado get an MPO as well. So far, we have seen nothing extraordinary here. Judge makes a routine Brady finding, meaning no weapons or firearms (Do goalie masks, sticks and frozen pucks count?), the judge orders no alcohol consumption (put the Stoli back on the shelf), and then the judge asks the defendant if he or she understands what “No Contact” means. Routine. All routine.
Unless your client has gone out of their way to violate any conditions of bond after it is posted, unless the Court’s long arm – judicial pretrial services (probation before you really get probation, kind of like the concept of appetizers) is showing your client had a reckless and wanton disregard for state criminal laws after being charged, the issue of “staying out on bond” is not really, well, an issue.
But note how almost all the tabloid articles make this an “Oh my God! He GOT TO STAY OUT OF JAIL AND ON BOND” story? Help me out here fellow criminal lawyers, I have only practiced criminal defense in Denver and its surrounding counties like Arapahoe for over a decade, but isn’t that what posting your bond means? You get to stay out right? I mean, more charges weren’t added…this isn’t a homicide case, so, bail is guaranteed by the Constitution right? Don’t you GET to stay out if you post bail in Colorado?
This is what I mean by quasi-accurate. The report and story are true. But the insinuation is that there was a likelihood that he would be sent to jail just for showing up to Court with his attorney on his court date. We know this isn’t a story, but does your average citizen get that this is not preferential treatment for a star pro-athlete? Does your average non criminal defense lawyer reading this newspaper article understand that anybody showing up to court on bond would get to leave the courthouse on bond?
The Denver County criminal courts have good solid judges. They have good solid district attorneys. Nobody is expecting anything crazy here folks. This is what I call passive aggressive news-reporting that does our profession an injustice. It just isn’t accurate (get that reporter on the stand, lets impeach her!) Just enough zing to suggest foul-play, or preferential treatment, but not anything grossly inaccurate so the reporter can fall back on (innocent blink) “what do you mean? I was just reporting what happened.”
Ah, the news, what would we do without it? The Denver criminal defense attorney mentioned in this report is one of the best in the state of Colorado. Litigation is nothing new to her. If this case goes to trial, her closing argument… THAT will be news worth reporting! Wishing them both the best, and regardless of the outcome, I am a Los Angeles Kings fan, so “GO KINGS GO!”