Colorado Chief Justice Charged with Threatening Crime, Dismissed


Fifth Judicial District Chief Justice Mark Thompson (Colorado Judicial Branch)

The chief justice of Colorado’s Fifth Judicial District was charged with a menacing crime on Saturday, court records show.

Justice Mark Thompson, 54, who presided over courts in Summit, Clear Creek, Eagle and Lake counties, was removed from his post as chief justice after the charge was laid on Saturday, according to the Colorado Judiciary.

Thompson was charged with a single count of felony threatening with a real or simulated weapon after an investigation by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, according to court records, which indicate the incident occurred on July 25.

The case has been removed from public view and court documents that should detail the charge against Thompson were not available on Sunday.

Prosecutors from the Fifth Judicial District Attorney’s Office wrote in a petition asking for secrecy that it was necessary because Thompson was a public official and a “prominent member” of the community.

“The disclosure at this stage of any of the documents on the record in this case could lead to the disclosure of information which could lead to the destruction, or withholding of evidence and the falsification of identified and unidentified witnesses, which could compromise the ‘ongoing investigation and / or interfere with the rights of the accused, including irreversible damage to reputation, and the right of the accused and the people to a fair trial, ”prosecutors wrote.

Judge Paul Dunkelman on Saturday granted the secrecy request in a one-line order. Since May, judges have been required to issue written orders explaining why they are restricting public access to a case and find that there is no less restrictive way to protect information, such as through drafting. Dunkelman’s order does not address these issues.

The fifth judicial district attorney, Heidi McCollum, said on Monday that she had asked for the case to be dropped in order to allow special prosecutors to deal with it as they see fit. The case will be continued by the first judicial district attorney, Alexis King.

“There is nothing in this that is intended to be secret or nefarious or to hide anything,” McCollum said. “… We just wanted to give the district that got it a chance, to be able to clean it up and manage it in whatever way it sees fit to be able to respond to the press.”

Thompson could not be reached for comment on Sunday and his lawyer did not immediately return a request for comment.

Thompson is currently on paid leave, judicial spokesperson Rob McCallum said on Sunday. It wasn’t immediately clear when Thompson planned to return, but McCallum said Thompson would resume his duties as a judge – but not chief justice – upon his return.

Threatening with a real or simulated weapon is a Class 5 felony, and is typically punished by one to three years in prison, followed by parole, depending on state sentencing guidelines.

People commit a threatening crime if they willfully cause someone to fear serious harm and in doing so use a lethal weapon or something that looks like a weapon, or tell the victim that they are. armed with a deadly weapon, according to state law.

Colorado Supreme Court Chief Justice Brian Boatright on Saturday appointed Dunkelman as acting chief justice of the Fifth Judicial District while the criminal case against Thompson is pending.

“The case involving Judge Thompson will be properly dealt with by the legal system,” Boatright said in a press release. “Justice Thompson has the presumption of innocence, and he is entitled and deserves due process.”

All the judges of the fifth judicial district withdrew from the case against their colleague. Judge Sean Finn, who works in the 17th Judicial District – covering Adams and Broomfield counties – will preside over the case instead, according to a note from state court administrator Steven Vasconcellos.

Thompson worked as an attorney in Summit County for 18 years before becoming a district court judge in 2010, according to the Judicial Branch website. He was appointed Chief Justice in 2013.

Thompson, who has been charged by subpoena, is due in court on December 17.

Updated at 2:15 p.m. on October 18, 2021: Due to incorrect information provided by the Colorado judicial branch, this story initially indicated whether a written order had been issued regarding the suppression of this case. The story has been updated to reflect that Judge Paul Dunkelman issued a one-line order on Saturday.

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