Five months ago a Colorado judge ruled Randal Ankeney, a registered sex-offender, had over-served his prison sentence because the state Department of Corrections had made a miscalculation.
That prompted attorney David A. Lane to file a lawsuit Thursday in U.S. District Court against the DOC claiming that three other sentences also had been miscalculated.
The action is likely to spur a class action suit that could result in the release thousands of inmates from prison earlier than anticipated.
"It appears that there are currently 20,000 inmates being held within CDOC, and literally thousands of them may have passed their MRDs (mandatory release dates) yet they are still incarcerated," Lane said in the lawsuit.
He names several state officials in the case, including DOC Executive Director Rick Raemisch,
The alleged miscalculation centers around how time-reducing credit is applied to a sentence.
Colorado inmates can earn credit that reduces the amount of time they have to wait in order to be eligible for parole. There are two types of credit - credit for good behavior and earned credit, which is awarded for completing classes and training courses.
But while the department applies good credit and earned credit to the date an inmate is eligible for parole, it does not apply it to the mandatory release date, the lawsuit says.
"CDOC has taken the position that not only does it have the discretion to award earned and good time, but it is within its discretion as to whether or not to apply it to any inmate's release date," the lawsuit says.
Ankeney, 42, is a high-profile inmate. The former El Paso County attorney was considered an rising star in the Republican Party when he was arrested in 2001 and later pleaded guilty to attempted sexual assault on a minor in Fountain. He was sentenced to 30 months in prison.
Ankeney was arrested again in 2006 and faced charges in Arapahoe County for felony child abuse and in Larimer County for unlawful sexual contact and stalking. He was sentenced to three years of incarceration and two years of mandatory parole in the Arapahoe County charge and eight years of incarceration and three years of mandatory parole in the latter.
He was released from prison in August - four months early - after Colorado Court of Appeals Judge David M. Thorson ruled Ankeney had a "clear right to have applied - and the DOC has a clear duty to apply - his good and education earned time credits toward establishing the appropriate date for his mandatory release."
The lawsuit asserts that Ankeney should have actually been released in October 2010 had his time been calculated correctly.
The Department of Corrections declined to comment.
Contact Megan Schrader