9News again failed to identify censured District Attorney Chambers as elected Republican

››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

Co-anchor Bob Kendrick of KUSA 9News stated during a May 1 report that 18th Judicial District Attorney Carol Chambers "is once again being investigated" but did not mention that she is an elected Republican officeholder. Colorado Media Matters has noted that 9News made the same omission in previous reports about Chambers.

Reporting that "[t]he Arapahoe County district attorney is once again being investigated by the Office of Attorney Regulation," KUSA 9News' Bob Kendrick noted on a May 1 broadcast that it marks the second time in less than a year that Carol Chambers has come under regulatory scrutiny. The 9News at 6 p.m. report also noted that Chambers, district attorney for Colorado's 18th Judicial District, previously was found to have violated professional rules of conduct "by using her office to help an acquaintance" and was censured. Yet Kendrick and reporter Deborah Sherman failed to mention that Chambers is a Republican elected official and that she was found to have used her office to benefit a political colleague -- Englewood City Councilwoman and fellow Republican Laurett Barrentine.

An article by Sherman and investigative producer Amy Herdy on 9News' website -- a version of which also appears on the website of 9News partner The Denver Post -- notes that "a disciplinary panel with the Office of Attorney Regulation found Chambers violated rules of professional conduct by using her office to help a political acquaintance, someone she knew through Republican functions." But the article fails to clarify that Chambers is an elected Republican officeholder, as a December 28, 2006, Denver Post editorial did in stating that "Chambers and the friend whose interests she was protecting, Laurett Barrentine, are prominent Arapahoe County Republicans."

As Colorado Media Matters has noted, 9News' 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. newscasts on October 23, 2006, identified Barrentine as a "Republican acquaintance" of Chambers without noting that Chambers also is a Republican. The 9News at 6 p.m. broadcast from the same day also failed to mention Chambers' party affiliation and referred to Barrentine only as a "political acquaintance."

From the May 1 broadcast of KUSA's 9News at 6 p.m.:

KENDRICK (co-anchor): The Arapahoe County district attorney is once again being investigated by the Office of Attorney Regulation. 9News has learned the office is looking into whether Carol Chambers violated rules of professional conduct as a district attorney. Late last year, a Colorado state Supreme Court three-judge disciplinary panel censured Chambers, saying that she violated those rules by using her office to help an acquaintance. She was censured, but not fined -- only ordered to pay court costs in that case. Chambers is the district attorney for the 18th Judicial District, which includes Arapahoe, Douglas, Lincoln, and Elbert counties. 9 Wants to Know reporter Deborah Sherman joins us now with details on this new case against her. Deb, this also involves the behavior of one of her assistant district attorneys.

SHERMAN: It does, but first Bob, the Office of Attorney Regulation would not confirm nor deny that Chambers is under investigation. But sources tell us she is because of emails she wrote last month. Some of the emails are about District Court Judge Valeria Spencer. Last month, Judge Spencer reprimanded an assistant district attorney after he called her a derogatory word and withheld evidence. Chambers then emailed the chief judge complaining about Judge Spencer's actions.

[begin video clip]

SHERMAN: Chambers wrote, "If the judge shows overt hostility toward the People or any attorney, there absolutely will be docket control problems in that division." The head of the public defender's office in Arapahoe calls that a threat. Jim O'Connor wrote to the chief judge that "Chambers was making a blatant attempt to intimidate judges who rule against or admonish district attorneys." The defense attorney in the case also sees it as a threat.

THOMAS CARBERRY: It's one thing to go and say, "Look, this happened, we think it's inappropriate; we would like it not to happen again," but here it seems to be, "Something happened, and if you don't do something about this judge, we're going to mess with the criminal justice system." That's what that seems like to me.

SHERMAN: But Carol Chambers says she was just making an observation that Judge Spencer has a heavy court docket.

CHAMBERS : I'm not trying to threaten -- threaten anyone. I'm trying to solve a problem that is observable and statistically based within our courthouse.

[end video clip]

SHERMAN: Carol Chambers says she asked for a meeting with the chief judge to talk about that issue and to talk about other judges who Chambers says have been verbally attacking district attorneys. But the chief judge denied the meeting. Now, reading a series of emails that go back and forth on this issue from Carol Chambers and the defense attorneys, it's clear there are some big issues between them, and now the judges are involved as well. Bob, we'll post the emails online at 9news.com so that people can read them.

KENDRICK: OK, thanks Deborah. And sources tell 9 Wants to Know that if the regulatory attorney investigating Carol Chambers finds wrongdoing, that attorney will file a formal complaint to the state Supreme Court to be heard at a trial.

From the May 1 article by Amy Herdy and Deborah Sherman posted on KUSA 9News' website, "District attorney investigated again":

ARAPAHOE COUNTY -- The Office of Attorney Regulation is again investigating District Attorney Carol Chambers to determine whether she violated rules of professional conduct.

Sources tell 9Wants to Know the investigation was sparked by several contentious e-mails Chambers sent last month complaining to judges and other officials of the 18th Judicial District, that at least one official viewed as a "veiled threat."

This current investigation marks the second one for Chambers within a year. Last December, a disciplinary panel with the Office of Attorney Regulation found Chambers violated rules of professional conduct by using her office to help a political acquaintance, someone she knew through Republican functions.

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