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Armstrong criminal trial postponed to October

By: MARK BARNA
February 22, 2010
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photo - Rev. Donald Armstrong was in El Paso County court Monday morning to have a trial date set by 4th Judicial District Judge Gregory Werner.  Steve Jones,right, a Prosecutor in the case and Armstrong's lawyer Dennis Hartley agreed to an October 18,2010 court date.   Photo by Carol Lawrence, The Gazette
Rev. Donald Armstrong was in El Paso County court Monday morning to have a trial date set by 4th Judicial District Judge Gregory Werner. Steve Jones,right, a Prosecutor in the case and Armstrong's lawyer Dennis Hartley agreed to an October 18,2010 court date. Photo by Carol Lawrence, The Gazette 

A 4th Judicial District judge today postponed the criminal trial of the Rev. Donald Armstrong of Colorado Springs to Oct. 18.

The trial had been set to begin today.

The change was due to scheduling conflicts between Armstrong’s defense attorney, Dennis Hartley, and the Pueblo District Attorney’s office.

Judge Gregory Werner also set a status conference for Aug. 18, where Hartley is expected to waive Armstrong’s right to a speedy trial. Werner anticipates the trial lasting three weeks.

Armstrong, the former rector of Grace and St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Colorado Springs, was indicted last April by a 4th Judicial District grand jury on 20 felony counts of theft charges. The indictment concluded an 11-month investigation by Colorado Springs police and the Pueblo District Attorney’s Office into Armstrong’s alleged financial misconduct while rector of Grace.

Police maintain that between 1999 and 2006 Armstrong funneled about $392,000 of church funds earmarked for Episcopal seminarians to finance his two children’s college education.

If convicted on all felony counts, Armstrong, 60, could spend the rest of his life in prison. Each count comes with a possible prison sentence of four to 12 years.

The Pueblo District Attorney’s office is prosecuting the case because of a conflict of interest with the local DA’s office. Former Springs DA John Newsome was on Armstrong’s vestry at Grace and St. Stephen’s.

Armstrong is no stranger to trials. He was the focal point early last year in a trial to determine ownership of the $17 million Grace and St. Stephen’s Church property downtown.

The property trial came about when in March 2007 the vestry of Grace Church voted to leave the Episcopal Church reportedly because of its liberal Scripture interpretations. Armstrong’s group joined the conservative Convocation of Anglicans in North America, which, like the Episcopal Church, is part of the worldwide Anglican Communion.

The CANA parish continued to meet in Grace Church, resulting in lawsuits by the Episcopal Diocese of Colorado and the CANA group to determine ownership.

After a five-week trial, the longest church property trial in Colorado history, a 4th Judicial District judge found in favor of the diocese.

The CANA parish vacated Grace last April and renamed itself St. George’s Anglican Church. Since last Easter, the parish has worshiped in the Mountain Shadows area.

The events leading to Armstrong’s criminal trial began in December 2006, when the rector was placed on leave by the diocese for alleged financial misconduct. Colorado Springs police started investigating the criminal aspects of the case in May 2007.

Call the writer at 636-0367.

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