Maketa trial keys on cur­rent sher­iff ’s file

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Lance Benzel

COLORADO SPRINGS» For­mer El Paso County Sher­iff Terry Maketa wanted to knock a sher­iff’s can­di­date out of the race when he drew at­ten­tion to a miss­ing dis­ci­plinary file, a key wit­ness tes­ti­fied Wed­nes­day.

“(Maketa) told me that if ev­ery­thing went the way he wanted it to go, then the me­dia and com­mu­nity would see that Bill Elder was crooked and dirty, and it would knock him out of the elec­tion,” Lt. Ch­eryl Peck said.

The so-called Elder file again took cen­ter stage at Maketa’s cor­rup­tion trial, con­sum­ing much of the third day of tes­ti­mony as pros­e­cu­tors high­lighted claims that the term-lim­ited sher­iff sought to in­flu­ence the 2014 elec­tion to pick his suc­ces­sor.

Claims in­volv­ing the miss­ing file led to dis­ci­plinary ac­tion against two deputies, giv­ing rise to two counts of of­fi­cial mis­con­duct against Maketa, both mis­de­meanors. A third count of of­fi­cial mis­con­duct stems from a dif­fer­ent feud.

The file — said to doc­u­ment mis­con­duct by Elder dur­ing a pre­vi­ous stint as a sher­iff’s deputy — was dis­cov­ered miss­ing by Peck from a locked room at the sher­iff’s in­ter­nal-af­fairs unit in April 2013.

Dur­ing open­ing state­ments, pros­e­cu­tors al­leged that the file was ac­tu­ally in the pos­ses­sion of Un­der­sh­er­iff Paula Pres­ley, a Maketa ally weigh­ing a run for sher­iff, and that Maketa en­cour­aged a bo­gus in­ves­ti­ga­tion to tar­nish Elder’s can­di­dacy and sub­ject his sup­port­ers to with­er­ing scru­tiny. Sev­eral sher­iff’s em­ploy­ees pre­vi­ously told the jury they were made to feel like their jobs could be at stake if they de­fied their boss.

Peck, for­merly of in­ter­nal af­fairs, de­scribed the day she first no­ticed the file miss­ing. Af­ter be­ing asked to re­trieve a dif­fer­ent file from the unit’s archives, Peck said she no­ticed an empty folder with Elder’s name on it stick­ing out about an inch above the oth­ers in a file cabi­net.

“I thought, ‘Well, that can’t be good.’ ”

She de­scribed how Maketa drafted her into a hunt that she said seemed po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated.

Months af­ter the file’s dis­ap­pear­ance, the sher­iff or­dered Peck to con­duct me­dia in­ter­views, say­ing he wanted to com­bat Elder’s claim that he had never been the sub­ject of an in­ter­nal-af­fairs in­ves­ti­ga­tion, she said.

Maketa also or­dered that deputies who were known to be Elder sup­port­ers — in­clud­ing Robert Stone and Emory Ger­hart — un­dergo com­put­er­ized voice stress anal­y­sis tests, a form of lie de­tec­tor. She claimed the sher­iff ac­knowl­edged to her in the past that he had pres­sured a test ad­min­is­tra­tor to say peo­ple had failed when they ac­tu­ally had passed.

Peck faced stiff ques­tion­ing by Maketa’s at­tor­neys, who pointed out that at least one of the deputies failed the test.

The de­fense, led by Den­ver at­tor­ney Pamela Mackey, fo­cused on in­di­ca­tions that or­der was crum­bling around the sher­iff’s of­fice in the midst of the com­ing elec­tion and that at least one deputy, Ger­hart, was feed­ing in­for­ma­tion to Elder about in­ter­nal-af­fairs in­ves­ti­ga­tions and other priv­i­leged mat­ters.

Un­der cross-examination, Peck ac­knowl­edged she told three com­man­ders about the miss­ing file and later lied about it dur­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, say­ing she hadn’t told any­one.

“It was the right thing to do to pro­tect peo­ple’s ca­reers,” she said, ad­mit­ting she also feared for her own fu­ture if Elder won and his sup­port­ers blamed her for be­ing in­volved in the probe.

A for­mer sher­iff’s de­tec­tive, Joseph Kele­men, tes­ti­fied that he was asked to be­gin a crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the file’s dis­ap­pear­ance in De­cem­ber, eight months af­ter Peck dis­cov­ered it miss­ing.

He didn’t want the as­sign­ment, say­ing he sus­pected pol­i­tics were in­volved, but de­nied that Maketa di­rected him to tar­get Elder’s sup­port­ers. Kele­men’s fo­cus was on any­one who had ac­cess to keys to the locked of­fice, he said.

Kele­men ad­mit­ted that he ended up leav­ing the sher­iff’s depart­ment af­ter Elder won the elec­tion, cit­ing prob­lems with deputies who had been brought in for the tests that he helped ad­min­is­ter.

In its ques­tion­ing, the de­fense sug­gested Maketa wanted only to plug the leaks in in­ter­nal af­fairs while mak­ing sure em­ploy­ees weren’t us­ing work time for po­lit­i­cal pur­poses.

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