Discussing Ritter plea bargains and illegal immigration, Boyles repeated falsehoods

››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

On his November 29 show, 630 KHOW-AM's Peter Boyles echoed several false claims he had made previously about illegal immigration and Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter's record as Denver district attorney -- despite widespread media reports of information that shows his assertions are inaccurate, as Colorado Media Matters has pointed out on multiple occasions.

On the November 29 broadcast of his 630 KHOW-AM show, Peter Boyles stated that as Denver district attorney, Gov. Bill Ritter (D) granted "152 plea bargains to illegal aliens, criminals," including Walter Ramo, an illegal immigrant who Boyles claimed was "obviously" a "heroin dealer." However, as Colorado Media Matters has noted, newspaper reports have stated that the 152 plea bargains in question allowed both legal and illegal immigrants to plead guilty to the Class 5 felony of agricultural trespass. In addition, Colorado Media Matters pointed out that the Denver district attorney's office stated that prosecutors could not establish that Ramo was a "heroin dealer."

Boyles also repeated his claim that illegal immigration "has become the domestic issue in this country in this [2008 presidential] election," despite several recent national polls showing that Americans consider the economy, the war in Iraq, health care, terrorism, and national security higher-priority issues than immigration.

1. Ritter approved 152 agricultural trespass plea bargains for "illegal aliens"

Discussing the case of Cory Voorhis, a federal immigration agent charged with misusing his access to a criminal database to get information later used by 2006 Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez's campaign ad against Ritter, Boyles said, "If you look at the [court] documents, Bill Ritter is the victim. How the hell, a guy who gives 152 plea bargains to illegal aliens, criminals, is now a victim?"

In fact, shortly after the release of Beauprez's September 29, 2006, ad accusing Ritter of helping immigrants avoid deportation when Ritter was Denver district attorney, the Rocky Mountain News and The Denver Post reported that Ritter's office approved 152 cases of agricultural trespass plea bargains that involved both legal and illegal immigrants. As the Post reported on October 1, 2006, "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." Similarly, an October 3, 2006, News article (accessed through the Nexis database) reported that "[g]ubernatorial candidate Bill Ritter on Monday fought off accusations that, when he was Denver district attorney, he allowed dozens of legal and illegal immigrants to plea-bargain criminal charges to avoid possible deportation." (emphasis added)* Moreover, a September 30, 2006, News article (accessed through Nexis) noted that "[f]our of the five cases highlighted by the Beauprez campaign involved legal immigrants from Latin America."

Later in the show, after News media critic Jason Salzman told Boyles during an interview that, of the 152 agricultural trespass plea bargain cases, "we don't know how many of them were illegal at the time that the [October 1, 2006 Post article] was published," Boyles claimed, "Now we do." Salzman then asked, "Now how many is it?" and Boyles replied, "I think it's all of them."

Still later, defending the October 1 Post article by Karen E. Crummy from Salzman's criticism, Boyles declared, "I think she did a great job," and proceeded to read from the article, including its statement that the 152 plea bargain cases involved both legal and illegal immigrants:

BOYLES: Let me read you what she wrote. This is 'cause I had to look it up. This is her piece that was done, all right: "Karen E. Crummy, Denver Post. Denver district attorney's office under gubernatorial candidate Bill Ritter" -- this is her words -- "approved plea bargains that prevented the deportation of illegal and legal immigrants charged with drugs, assault and other crime. The office allowed defendants to plead guilty to trespassing on ag land instead of crimes they were actually accused of 152 times between '98 and '04.

SALZMAN: There's legal and illegal there, by the way.

BOYLES: Right, right. Immigrants. That's right. Because the one guy that I found was in the country legally but it was a dope dealer.

2. Walter Ramo is "obviously" a "heroin dealer"

While discussing Beauprez's campaign ad against Ritter, Boyles also repeated the false claim that one of the cases Beauprez cited involved a heroin dealer:

BOYLES: The one guy who was the center of all of this -- and I don't even know his name now; it could either be Walter Ramo, it could be Carlos Roberto Estrada Medina, it could be Eugene Estrada -- an illegal, a heroin dealer. And he is allowed to plea to a Class 5 felony, agricultural trespass. And he did that on one -- no wait, I'm making sure I got my notes -- he got ag trespass. And he should have been -- obviously, he's a heroin dealer, so he's a death dealer, and he's an illegal. But he gets agricultural trespass, which I'm sure if we drove around Denver today we could find lots of farms and ranches. He takes off for California, where he perps a sex crime on a kid. In San Francisco, in fact.

In fact, as Colorado Media Matters has noted (here and here), the Denver district attorney's office stated that prosecutors could not establish that the man at the center of Beauprez's allegations, identified as Ramo, was a "heroin dealer."

The written version of an October 11, 2006, KUSA 9News "Truth Test" analysis of the anti-Ritter ad stated, "Denver District Attorney's Office spokeswoman Lynn Kimbrough said the only witness to Ramo's alleged heroin dealing was the driver of the car he was arrested with. Ramo had no drugs in his possession when he was arrested and the heroin was found in the floorboard of the driver's car. Criminal background checks on the driver revealed a prior felony conviction for drug dealing."

Similarly, the written version of KCNC CBS4's "Reality Check" from October 12, 2006, reported that "Kimbrough said the case [against Ramo] had evidence problems." CBS4 further reported:

What kind of problems? Before police arrested Ramo in 2001, he was spotted getting out of a car. Police arrested the driver of that car, and found him with drugs. The driver said he bought the drugs from Ramo. When police caught up with Ramo, they found he had no drugs, and no criminal record in Colorado. But the driver who told police about Ramo did have a criminal record. So prosecutors found themselves wondering who to believe.

3. Illegal immigration "has become the domestic issue in this country in this election"

While discussing with a caller "the influx of illegals and gangs" into cities like "Fort Collins, Greeley, Longmont," Boyles asserted, "And last night, watching part of that [Republican primary] YouTube debate, [former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt] Romney, [former New York City mayor Rudy] Giuliani, these guys, they don't even want to talk about illegal immigration, and yet now it has become the domestic issue in this country in this election."

However, as Colorado Media Matters noted when Boyles made the same claim on November 15, several recent polls show that Americans consider the economy, the war in Iraq, health care, terrorism, and national security to be higher-priority issues than immigration:

  • According to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll of adults nationwide conducted November 1-5 by the polling organizations of Peter Hart and Bill McInturff, when asked which issue "should be the top priority for the federal government," 26 percent said "The war in Iraq," 16 percent said "Health care," 14 percent said "Job creation and economic growth," 13 percent said "Terrorism." Eleven percent of those polled answered "Illegal immigration." The poll's margin of error was 2.5 percentage points.
  • Similarly, a Newsweek poll conducted October 31-November 1 by "Princeton Survey Research Associates International" asked registered voters, "In deciding which presidential candidate to support in 2008, which one of the following issues is most important to you?" Only 7 percent of respondents said "Immigration." According to the poll, 22 percent of voters identified "The economy and jobs" as the issue most important to them, while 19 percent said "Iraq," 17 percent said "Health care," 15 percent said "Terrorism and national security," and 10 percent said "Taxes and government spending." The poll's margin of error was 4 percentage points.
  • Finally, a Gallup poll conducted October 25-28 asked Americans "to name, in their own words, what 'one or two issues should be the top priorities for the president and Congress to deal with at this time.' " More respondents cited the war in Iraq (62 percent), health care (29 percent), and the economy (18 percent) than immigration (11 percent) among the federal government's top one or two priorities. The margin of error was 4 percentage points with a 95 percent level of confidence.

From the November 29 broadcast of 630 KHOW-AM's The Peter Boyles Show:

CALLER: I'm just curious about the whole genesis of this thing is that the, there was no record of this gentleman that the ad was about. And did Ritter hide all these ag trespass things?

BOYLES: What they did -- well, how this starts is, Bill Ritter in the campaign is pronouncing in the newspapers what a tough prosecutor he's been on illegal immigration and on illegal immigrants. Voorhis knew better. Voorhis knew that he gave a plea bargain called agricultural trespass, a Class 5 felony, something Norm Early never gave -- his predecessor -- and something Mitch Morrissey no longer gives. By Kimbrough's admission, she said, "We don't do that anymore." And she was on the job with Ritter and she would stayed on the job with Morrissey. So Morrissey, I think, realized how that looked when he got outed. So one of the things you can bless Voorhis for, is he ended the agricultural trespass plea bargaining from the Ritter people. But 152 times Bill Ritter gave ag trespass as a plea bargain to domestic-violence creeps, to all kinds of heroin dealers, sex predators -- who go on to be sex predators. Now, there's a reason for that. Something is greater than this young man standing there. I am absolutely, totally convinced of it at this point. There was no reason to go for this guy.

CALLER: Yeah, and my curiosity was, Lynn's confession on the radio cue the other day was that she could not find these people on the local database.

BOYLES: What she doesn't tell you --

CALLER: [Unintelligible] check that.

BOYLES: What she doesn't tell you is, who asked her to look? There's somebody in here that I have dubbed -- now I sound like -- there's somebody, Mr. Big. On the Republican side there is Mr. Big. On the side of the Democrats, I think there's Ms. Big. But there's really a Mr. Big on the Republican side. [Caller], I swear to God there is. And I'm, I just, I've been -- all kinds of, you know, "Don't you do this Boyles." You know. But there is Mr. Big. And on the Democratic side no one has told Kimbrough. No one has said, "Who asked Kimbrough to look?" I mean, we're led to believe that Kimbrough is sittin' there, "fo-dee-oh," in front of a computer, and down the hall comes Chuck Lepley [of the Denver district attorney's office].

CALLER: Oh, yeah. I'm sure there's a very big cover-up on the Democratic side.

BOYLES: Well, absolutely.

CALLER: And I think part of the cover-up is the sleazy cover-up and trying to flush all these illegal --

BOYLES: Sure.

CALLER: -- criminal activity right out of existence.

BOYLES: But see, what they were able to do in that short amount of time was to take and make Bill Ritter the victim. And if you read the court documents, the filings, Bill Ritter is listed as the victim. Bill Ritter personally listed as the victim. Do you believe that? I mean, think what kind of hoodwinking that was goin' on. If you look at the documents, Bill Ritter is the victim. How the hell, a guy who gives 152 plea bargains to illegal aliens, criminals, is now a victim?

CALLER: I would dare to -- I don't have hard proof, but I would dare to claim that he is the malfeasance of office --

BOYLES: But, again, that --

CALLER: -- giving all these people --

BOYLES: Well, but, again --

CALLER: -- virtually no punishment.

BOYLES: The interesting thing about it is -- and I must break -- talking to Norm Early, Norm Early did not even know this plea bargain existed. This current district attorney, Mitch Morrissey, doesn't give it. There's only one DA and one DA only in Denver that was doing it. And that was Mitch Morrissey, I mean, excuse me, that was Bill Ritter.

[...]

CALLER: Peter, I wanted to tell you how much I appreciate what you're doing.

BOYLES: Oh, you're kind.

CALLER: Because, I tell ya, up here in Boulder County alone over a period of about 20 years, there's been so many crimes committed, you can't put your finger on it. You know, you never could. And it was crimes like drugs, robberies, rapes, murders.

BOYLES: Oh, sure.

CALLER: And so many --

BOYLES: But that happens in big cities everywhere.

CALLER: Well, it just seems like it, at that time it wasn't that big. You know, Longmont.

BOYLES: Well, again, if you look at the influx of illegals and gangs into those places -- Fort Collins, Greeley, Longmont. And that's one of the reasons why there's a new mayor right now in Greeley. I mean, this idiot mayor up there that was a "sanctuary" mayor, he's out on his ear. You got a new mayor. It's going to start to happen across this country. And last night, watching part of that YouTube debate, Romney, Giuliani, these guys, they don't even want to talk about illegal immigration, and yet now it has become the domestic issue in this country in this election. And it's going to become more heated.

[...]

BOYLES: The one guy who was the center of all of this -- and I don't even know his name now; it could either be Walter Ramo, it could be Carlos Roberto Estrada Medina, it could be Eugene Estrada -- an illegal, a heroin dealer. And he is allowed to plea to a Class 5 felony, agricultural trespass. And he did that on one -- no wait, I'm making sure I got my notes -- he got ag trespass. And he should have been -- obviously, he's a heroin dealer, so he's a death dealer, and he's an illegal. But he gets agricultural trespass, which I'm sure if we drove around Denver today we could find lots of farms and ranches. He takes off for California, where he perps a sex crime on a kid. In San Francisco, in fact.

[...]

BOYLES: On the 14th of October -- and this is what I'm asking about, do things change? -- you did a piece in yours called -- Rocky Mountain News -- "Post Ritter story shameful deceit: Misleading interview tactics, failure to prove wrongdoing in news value low." Do you still hold to this?

SALZMAN: Yeah, at that time they were alleging that this plea bargain, the agricultural trespass, made Governor Ritter look soft on crime, and I don't think that that was true. And there was no evidence that that was the case. So the story, which ran on the front page of The Denver Post was, I thought, a pretty bogus story. And the interview tactics used in it were also bad.

BOYLES: OK. What's bogus about letting an illegal heroin dealer off who goes out to do a sex crime in San Francisco?

SALZMAN: Well, the story was about not just that, but what was it, 152.

BOYLES: 152.

SALZMAN: And we don't know how many of them were illegal at the time that the story was published. We can --

BOYLES: Now we do.

SALZMAN: Now how many is it?

BOYLES: It's, I think it's all of them.

SALZMAN: No.

BOYLES: Not all? I have a stack here of the cases, and I can go through them, but I thought a tremendous percentage of them were ag trespass were the, were illegals, or undocumented. Seriously. I mean, I could --

SALZMAN: OK, well, even --

BOYLES: I could show -- I could --

SALZMAN: Even at that.

BOYLES: All right.

SALZMAN: You've been through this.

BOYLES: Yeah.

SALZMAN: When you make a plea, you have to look at what the evidence was, what was going on with the, in the case involved.

BOYLES: Mmm-hmm.

SALZMAN: That might have been the best deal they could have gotten.

BOYLES: Do you really think so?

SALZMAN: I do.

[...]

BOYLES: So what do you think's wrong with what Karen Crummy did? 'Cause I think she did a great job.

SALZMAN: Well, I just told you the example about Ritter's total -- I mean Norm Early.

BOYLES: Mmm-hmm.

SALZMAN: She manipulated his, her interview with him completely in that story.

BOYLES: Well, then he, when he told me, he said, "Look, he's never given the deal."

SALZMAN: Yeah, he's never given the deal, but the quote -- my article's about --

BOYLES: Let me read you what she wrote. This is 'cause I had to look it up. This is her piece that was done, all right: "Karen E. Crummy, Denver Post. Denver district attorney's office under gubernatorial candidate Bill Ritter" -- this is her words -- "approved plea bargains that prevented the deportation of illegal and legal immigrants charged with drugs, assault and other crime. The office allowed defendants to plead guilty to trespassing on ag land instead of crimes they were actually accused of 152 times between '98 and '04.

SALZMAN: There's legal and illegal there, by the way.

BOYLES: Right, right. Immigrants. That's right. Because the one guy that I found was in the country legally but it was a dope dealer.

*Contrary to the Post's and the News' initial reporting that agricultural trespass plea bargains helped illegal immigrants avoid deportation, as Colorado Media Matters has noted, while plea deals Ritter's office approved might have helped legal immigrants avoid deportation, illegal immigrants are subject to deportation by federal officials regardless of any pleas to which they agree, according to U.S. law.

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