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Douglas Bruce given 2-year prison sentence for violating terms of probation

March 11, 2016 Updated: March 12, 2016 at 11:50 am
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Doug Bruce before the start of a City Council meeting at City Hall in downtown Colorado Springs on Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2010. The Gazette, Bryan Oller

DENVER - The author of Colorado's Taxpayer's Bill of Rights is headed to prison for two years after he was sentenced Friday for violating the terms of his probation in a tax evasion case.    

Douglas Bruce, a former state representative and El Paso County Commissioner, was taken away from a Denver courtroom in handcuffs after a Denver District Judge said he left her "no choice" in facing a prison sentence.

"The probability of your success on probation is zero," said Judge Sheila A. Rappaport, adding that she did not approve of his conduct during the hearing, which spanned three court dates over several months. 

"You were manipulative, you were deceitful, you lacked transparency and you tried to make a charade of probation," she said.

Bruce was convicted in 2012 of tax evasion, filing a false tax return and trying to influence a public servant, all felonies. He served 104 days in jail and was placed on probation for six years. In January, Rappaport ruled that he had violated five of the terms of his probation.

During the sentencing hearing, Assistant Attorney General Robert Shapiro argued that Bruce should serve three years in prison because he showed no remorse and had proven that he would not be successful on probation.

Bruce maintained his innocence.

"I have no remorse because I'm not guilty," Bruce told the judge. "... I'm not going to mislead you by saying I'm sorry or I'll never do it again because that's not the case."

Bruce fought all of the counts, but Rappaport sided with the prosecution on almost all of the violations. Bruce was sentenced Friday to serve two years for each of his felonies, which will be served concurrently. He will then serve three years of mandatory parole.

A jail sentence, he said, would not make him change his feelings.

"If you want to put me in a cell, do you think that will break me?" he asked. "I'm not going to be broken."

Bruce said he will appeal the case in federal court.

After Rappaport handed down her sentence, two officers approached. Bruce asked if he could wear an ankle bracelet or serve his term in the El Paso County jail where he could be close to home. Rappaport denied those requests.

Bruce handed his personal items to Colorado Springs City Councilwoman Helen Collins, who has attended all of the court hearings. The officers then handcuffed him and led him away.

Friday's sentencing was the culmination of a yearlong effort by the Denver Adult Probation Department to hold Bruce accountable for multiple probation violations.

In March 2015, Bruce's probation officers filed a complaint saying he failed to notify them of a traffic ticket, did not turn over his federal and state tax returns and did not fill out a required financial disclosure statement. He also failed to notify his probation officers of a financial arrangement with Collins, did not disclose new funds he received after the sale of his mother's home and did not report a financial obligation to pay his brother after the sale of the home, his probation officers say.

Rappaport said Bruce's multiple violations, and his lack of transparency and remorse were all cause for his prison sentence.

"Mr. Bruce, you basically give me no choice," she said. "You are not someone who is amenable to probation."

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