April 29, 2013
A former Colorado Springs police officer fired amid allegations she lied about domestic violence to put an estranged boyfriend in prison pleaded guilty Monday to a single felony count.
The plea deal by Sydney Huffman, 25, came the morning she was to begin trial in what attorneys for victim Jarrott Martinez have called a “campaign of personal destruction” against him that led to more than six months in jail, two jury trials and the loss of his job as a Manitou Springs police officer.
"I don't have a whole lot to say," a tearful Martinez said after the hearing. "I'm pretty much speechless."
Martinez said he has been unable to find work since his termination as a police officer, partly because a restraining order Huffman took out against him has remained active.
Huffman, who was visibly pregnant, would avoid jail time and faces up to four years' supervised parole if 4th Judicial District Judge Larry Schwartz accepts her plea deal at a June 24 sentencing. Huffman is eligible for house arrest.
Charged with six counts of attempting to influence a public official – each related to a different occasion in which she allegedly lied to police to obtain an arrest warrant against Martinez –- Huffman pleaded guilty to just one felony count.
Prosecutors agreed to dismiss the remainder of the charges, and Huffman agreed to lift the restraining order and admit she lied about abuse to obtain it. Huffman, who said in court that she hasn't suffered from mental disabilities, also agreed to a mental health evaluation.
Attempting to influence a public official is a class 4 felony punishable by two to six years in prison.
After nearly two years of court battles –- including a $480,000 civil settlement paid to Martinez by the city of Colorado Springs –- the last-minute agreement appeared to run into trouble when prosecutors complained Huffman was “hedging” over the question of her guilt as she addressed the court.
In addressing Judge Schwartz, Huffman read from a written statement in which she said the attack didn't happen "at the time and place" she had claimed.
After a 10-minute recess, Huffman returned to the podium with a fuller confession -- admitting she concocted details about a June 2010 incident in which she claimed that Martinez caught up to her in her vehicle, forced her from the road and then choked her.
Surveillance video showed Martinez was at the mall at the time Huffman claimed the assault occurred, prosecutors said.
When Huffman was confronted with the tape, she said the assault actually occurred five hours later than she had previously claimed. Dropping the allegation about being forced from the road, she said she lied out of embarrassment that she had agreed to meet Martinez.
That story, too, failed to check out. A male roommate -- also a Springs police officer -- told police that Huffman was with him at the time she had insisted she was choked by Martinez.
"It's clear that he did not commit any offenses against her that night and that the story -- both stories -- were false," Fitch said.
Martinez was twice acquitted of domestic violence charges at trials in which Huffman’s testimony came under suspicion.
Nevertheless, after the jury acquittals police sought another arrest warrant based on new allegations that he sexually assaulted her with a curling iron. Those charges were dropped by prosecutors and the District Attorney's Office instead filed charges against Huffman.
A decorated three-year veteran, Huffman was placed on paid administrative leave for months after her arrest but has since left the city's payroll.
Huffman’s attorney, Karen Stinehauser of Denver, told the court Huffman was prepared to fight the allegations at trial but changed her mind after learning she was pregnant.
Huffman has had complications with her pregnancy, and did not want to risk a miscarriage, Stinehauser said.
Prosecutor Amy Fitch countered in court that Huffman and her attorneys were told they could postpone the trial until after Huffman had given birth.
Huffman displayed little emotion in court as she accepted her guilty plea. She and Stinehauser declined to comment after the hearing.
Martinez, who has since married, embraced Fitch after the hearing.
“I’m sorry I’m crying. I apologize,” he said, before regaining his composure. "I didn't expect it to be so quick. I'm glad it was."