Reporting on misconduct allegations, Post and Rocky failed to identify DA Chambers and her husband as Republicans

››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

Articles in The Denver Post and the Rocky Mountain News about misconduct allegations against District Attorney Carol Chambers did not note that Chambers is an elected Republican official or that her husband is chairman of the Arapahoe County Republican Party.

An article by Carlos Illescas in the October 6 edition of The Denver Post reported on charges of official misconduct leveled against District Attorney Carol Chambers but did not note either that Chambers is an elected Republican official or that her husband, Nathan Chambers, who allegedly was involved in the incidents described in the complaint against Carol Chambers, is chairman of the Arapahoe County Republican Party. Similarly, an article by Ivan Moreno and Katie Kerwin McCrimmon posted to the website of the Rocky Mountain News on October 6 also failed to identify Carol and Nathan Chambers as a Republican officeholder and the chairman of the Arapahoe County Republican Party, respectively.

Carol Chambers was elected to a four-year term as district attorney for Colorado's 18th Judicial District -- covering Arapahoe, Douglas, Elbert and Lincoln counties -- on November 2, 2004.

The Post reported in its lead page one story that Carol Chambers "is facing a state investigation into whether she used her position to intimidate a lawyer hired to collect a debt from an Englewood councilwoman" and that she "is scheduled to appear before a disciplinary judge on Oct. 24 to face allegations that she knowingly made a false or misleading statement to a third party, threatened a criminal charge 'to gain advantage in a civil action,' engaged in conduct 'involving dishonesty' and used her office to 'intimidate.' "

The councilwoman, Laurett Barrentine -- whom the Post identified as an Arapahoe Republican Party official -- allegedly approached Carol Chambers at what the Post reported was a "political event" to complain about the tactics of an attorney, Jonathan Steiner, who works for Central Credit Corporation. Central Credit Corporation reportedly sought payment on two bad checks written on Barrentine's account. According to the Post, Barrentine claimed -- but did not prove to Central Credit Corporation's satisfaction -- that she was a victim of identify theft resulting from the 1998 theft of her purse.

According to the Post, Carol Chambers then allegedly "referred her [Barrentine] to her husband, attorney Nathan Chambers, for legal advice." The Post reported that although "[Carol] Chambers said her husband was just giving Barrentine guidance," according to the complaint against Carol Chambers, "Nathan Chambers made a call to Steiner to talk about a potential civil trial over the checks and questioned him about jury instructions that he had submitted."

However, despite identifying Barrentine as an Arapahoe County Republican official and detailing the complaint against Carol Chambers as well as the alleged involvement of Nathan Chambers, the Post article made no mention of the fact that Carol Chambers is an elected Republican serving Arapahoe County and that, according to the party's website, Nathan Chambers is chairman of the Arapahoe County Republican Party.

The News also explained the complaint against Carol Chambers, including her husband's role in the case. It also noted that Steiner "tried to collect money from Laurett Barrentine, a Republican Party county official" and further identified Barrentine as "a committee member of the Arapahoe County Republican Party." But like the Post, the News failed to identify Carol and Nathan Chambers as prominent Arapahoe County Republicans.

The charges of misconduct directed at Carol Chambers stem from a phone message she left with Steiner on January 23. The Post reported that "Chambers, who identified herself as the district attorney, said she had received 'a lot of complaints from the victims of identity theft that you are pressuring them, shall I say, to pay on checks that they did not write." But the Post reported that in fact, according to the complaint, "Chambers had received only one complaint about the attorney -- from Barrentine, an Arapahoe Republican Party official, during a political event." The Post reported that, according to the complaint, "Chambers threatened to convene a grand jury investigation" of Steiner.

According to the Post, Carol Chambers "faces discipline ranging from a reprimand to disbarment if a judge refers the case to the Colorado Supreme Court."

From Illescas's article, "DA faces investigation," in the October 6 edition of The Denver Post:

District Attorney Carol Chambers is facing a state investigation into whether she used her position to intimidate a lawyer hired to collect a debt from an Englewood councilwoman.

In addition, an office of the state Supreme Court is alleging that Chambers, who prosecutes crimes in Arapahoe, Douglas, Elbert and Lincoln counties, lied to the lawyer about the number of complaints against him. She is accused of violating four rules governing attorney conduct.

According to the complaint, Chambers threatened to convene a grand jury investigation of Jonathan Steiner, a lawyer for the Central Credit Corp., about the company's tactics in dealing with Englewood City Councilwoman Laurett Barrentine.

In a phone message left with Steiner on Jan. 23., Chambers, who identified herself as the district attorney, said she had received "a lot of complaints from the victims of identity theft that you are pressuring them, shall I say, to pay on checks that they did not write," according to the complaint.

However, the complaint contends, Chambers had received only one complaint about the attorney -- from Barrentine, an Arapahoe Republican Party official, during a political event. Chambers says Barrentine is an acquaintance she referred to her husband, attorney Nathan Chambers, for legal advice.

Carol Chambers is scheduled to appear before a disciplinary judge on Oct. 24 to face allegations that she knowingly made a false or misleading statement to a third party, threatened a criminal charge "to gain advantage in a civil action," engaged in conduct "involving dishonesty" and used her office to "intimidate."

The district attorney faces discipline ranging from a reprimand to disbarment if a judge refers the case to the Colorado Supreme Court.

[...]

At a political function in November 2005, Barrentine approached Chambers to say she had been a victim of identity theft, according to the complaint. Chambers referred Barrentine to her husband, who agreed to represent her pro bono, according to the complaint.

Chambers said her husband was just giving Barrentine guidance. The complaint said Nathan Chambers made a call to Steiner to talk about a potential civil trial over the checks and questioned him about jury instructions that he had submitted.

From the article "State investigating DA," by Ivan Moreno and Katie Kerwin McCrimmon, posted to the Rocky Mountain News website on October 6:

The state's Attorney Regulation Council is investigating a charge that the Arapahoe County district attorney used her position to intimidate a lawyer.

District Attorney Carol Chambers is being investigated on four counts that include threatening to convene a grand jury to investigate Jonathan R. Steiner, a lawyer hired to collect money from a committee member of the Arapahoe County Republican Party.

[...]

Steiner was working on behalf of Central Credit Corporation in 2005 when he tried to collect money from Laurett Barrentine, a Republican Party county official and member of the Englewood City Council, for two bad checks she allegedly wrote.

According to the complaint filed in June, Central Credit Corporation eventually dropped the case against Barrentine, a day before trial and after Chambers left following voicemail for Steiner:

"Hi there, this is Carol Chambers, the District Attorney for Arapahoe, Douglas, Elbert, and Lincoln counties and I am calling you because we are getting a lot of complaints from victims of identity theft that you are pressuring them shall I say, to pay on checks they did not write ..."

There was only one complaint against Steiner -- the one from Barrentine, according to Steiner's complaint.

Chambers went on to say that "I am looking at investigating this with the grand jury, and I'd like to hear your input first if you'd like to make it ..."

After receiving the message, "Steiner felt threatened and intimidated," according to the complaint. When Steiner told the vice president of operations for the collection agency, "She, too, was concerned by the District Attorney's involvement in what had appeared to them to be a routine collection action."

According to the complaint, Barrentine told Chambers she was a victim of identity theft during a political event in November of 2005, and that Central Credit Corporation was trying to recover money from two checks written to Wal-Mart, one for $192.15, the other for $128.17.

Chambers referred Barrentine to her husband, Nathan Chambers, who agreed to represent her for free, according to the complaint.

The counts Chambers is being investigated for include making "false or misleading statement of fact or law," threatening to prosecute Steiner, and using office "to intimidate a party in civil litigation."

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