Denver Post resurrected falsehood about Ritter plea bargains

››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

In reporting on criminal charges filed against a federal immigration agent accused of illegally accessing a government computer for information later used in an attack ad by former Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez's campaign, The Denver Post stated that, as Denver District attorney, Gov. Bill Ritter (D) approved "several plea bargains ... that prevented the deportation of illegal and legal immigrants charged with drug, assault and other crimes." In fact, illegal immigrants are subject to deportation by federal officials regardless of any plea deals.

An October 26 Denver Post article about the filing of criminal charges against an immigration agent accused of illegally obtaining information later used by former Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez's campaign reported that, as Denver District attorney, Gov. Bill Ritter (D) approved "several plea bargains ... that prevented the deportation of illegal and legal immigrants charged with drug, assault and other crimes." However, as Colorado Media Matters noted during the 2006 campaign, while plea deals approved by Ritter's office may have helped legal immigrants avoid deportation, illegal immigrants are subject to deportation by federal officials regardless of any pleas to which they agree.

The article, by Karen E. Crummy, echoed an October 1, 2006, Post article she wrote that similarly reported, "The Denver district attorney's office under gubernatorial candidate Bill Ritter approved plea bargains that prevented the deportation of illegal and legal immigrants charged with drug, assault and other crimes." An attack ad released by Beauprez's campaign made similar claims, as Colorado Media Matters noted. In the ad, Beauprez's campaign criticized Ritter's plea-bargaining of legal and illegal immigrants' cases while he was Denver district attorney.

The Post reported on October 20, 2006, that sources close to a joint Colorado Bureau of Investigation and FBI inquiry confirmed that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement special agent Cory Voorhis used a restricted federal database to access information used in the Beauprez ad.

As the October 26 article reported, "The most contentious issue from last year's race for governor resurfaced Thursday when federal authorities charged a veteran immigration agent with unlawfully accessing a government computer to find information later used by Republican Bob Beauprez's campaign." The Post further reported:

Cory Voorhis, 38, was charged in Denver federal court with three misdemeanor counts of exceeding his authorized access to a government computer by retrieving "criminal histories of various individuals." He was immediately suspended by the immigrations and customs agency.

The charge, which records show is rarely filed, pushed the issue of illegal immigration and the rivalry between Beauprez and Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter back onto the front burner.

"This just seems like kind of a tragedy. He thought he saw a big injustice and wanted to do something about it," said Beauprez.

Neither Beauprez nor his campaign has ever confirmed that Voorhis was the source of information used in a campaign ad against Ritter. Beauprez on Thursday declined to answer that question.

The ad claimed that during Ritter's tenure as Denver district attorney, an illegal immigrant charged with heroin possession was allowed to plea to agricultural trespassing.

His was one of several plea bargains approved by Ritter that prevented the deportation of illegal and legal immigrants charged with drug, assault and other crimes.

According to a June 11, 2006, Rocky Mountain News article, "unlawful presence" in the United States is a deportable offense: "The most common charge against those caught without authorization in the U.S. is 'unlawful presence,' a civil offense. The penalty is removal, and an immigrant can be detained in the meantime."

Unlike its October 26 article, the Post's October 1, 2006, article included Ritter's contention that as district attorney "he insisted his office contact immigration officials whenever a defendant was an illegal immigrant or had questionable immigration status," and that it "was up to the federal government to deport them." Ritter also stated that "the scarce resources in his office were used to prosecute violent and serious offenders and, sometimes, cases had evidentiary issues where a plea to a lesser charge was better than losing at trial."

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