by Marissa Lorenz
In a plea agreement accepted on Monday, March 15, former Kremmling Police Chief Jamie Lucas pled guilty to a single count of 2nd degree official misconduct and was sentenced to pay a $100 fine and some minimal court costs and to register for one year of unsupervised probation during which he was ordered to perform 36 hours of community service.
The plea and sentencing conclude a case dating back to an incident nearly one and a half years ago, which prompted an investigation into the then-police chief by the District Attorney’s Office, a search warrant being served on the Kremmling Police Department, the suspension and subsequent non-renewal of Chief Lucas by the Town of Kremmling, and 15 misdemeanor charges filed against him.
Lucas came under investigation following his handling of a potential, minor-involved animal abuse case in October 2019.
The original charges alleged four counts of first-degree official misconduct for writing citations that could have resulted in fines being paid to the Town, four counts of second-degree official misconduct for initiating prosecution for a crime that occurred out of town limits, and four counts of official oppression for issuing municipal summonses for offenses that were alleged to occur out of town. Lucas faced an additional three counts of false reporting to authorities for allegedly making false statements to investigators.
All of those charges have been dismissed in exchange for Lucas pleading guilty to the 2nd degree official misconduct charge, a class 1 petty offense which, under Colorado Revised Statute 18-8-405(1)(b), states that a public servant has “knowingly, arbitrarily, and capriciously violated any statute or lawfully adopted rule or regulation relating to his office.”
The sentence includes no
jail time. However, prosecuting 14th Judicial District District Attorney (DA) Matt Karzan argued for a year of supervised probation, stating, “The case generated a lot of anxiety for some in the civilian community and those inside the Kremmling criminal justice/law
enforcement systems. I appreciate Mr. Lucas taking ownership with this plea, but I think probation is appropriate for ‘pro-active reflection and rehabilitation.’”
Lucas’ attorney, Josh Raaz, countered, responding, “I could understand the argument if there were facts of substance abuse or something else, but we don’t have any of those indicators. It seems more like carte blanche–‘let’s just put him on probation just to put him on probation.’
“Mr. Lucas has taken time to reflect on how this has impacted him and the community. I think a fine only is appropriate. I don’t know what benefit there is to probation.”
Lucas himself provided no statement when asked by the Court. Proceedings were via WebEx, and connection problems may have played a role.
He later offered, “I chose to accept this plea due to there being no end in sight when it comes to having my case heard in court, given the COVID pandemic, and my case having been continued several times now.
“With that being said, I was really hoping my right to a speedy trial would have already occurred. However, I will be using this time to spend with my family and meet with community citizens on how I can continue to be of service to them now and in the future.”
The petty offense conviction will not impact Mr. Lucas’ ability to return to work in law enforcement, he notes.
However, DA Karzen indicates that the conviction for official misconduct does count as a second “Brady event” against the former chief.
The Brady List, so called after a Supreme Court case, is a collection of names kept by Colorado district attorneys of law enforcement officers whom they consider to be less-than-credible witnesses in court. There is no formalized statewide system, and not all DA offices make their list public.
Grand County Judge Nicholas Catanzarite accepted the plea agreement and condition of no jail, offering a compromise. He observed,
“There is a lot left to the court’s discretion here (…) and it is hard to sentence someone to probation, as you put it, ‘carte blanche.’
“The allegations are concerning, especially given Mr. Lucas’ former position as law enforcement in the district. I don’t take that lightly. I also don’t take lightly Lucas’ taking ownership with this guilty plea.
“I don’t know what the purpose of probation would be,” continued Catanzarite. “There are no specific allegations that indicate that substance abuse or mental health/anger management issues could appropriately be addressed by putting Mr. Lucas on probation.
“I don’t think supervised probation is appropriate. I do think a period of unsupervised probation with community service is entirely appropriate.”
The Judge clarified that the community service must be concluded before February 15, 2022.
Catanzarite closed the proceedings by thanking all parties for “working together and coming to a resolution
that works for everyone.”
“My family and I want to give thanks for all the support that we have received from across the county and abroad,” Lucas said about the conclusion of the case. “The support has been overwhelming, and I look forward to speaking to citizens throughout the county on what the future could look like.”
by Marissa Lorenz