Save this content for laterSave this content on your device for later, even while offline Sign in with FacebookSign in with your Facebook account Close

Maketa had 'hit list,' El Paso County prosecutor says of ex-sheriff

July 6, 2017 Updated: July 7, 2017 at 8:31 am
0
photo - El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa speaks to the press Tuesday, June 10, 2014, at the Sheriff's Office in Colorado Springs, Colo., about the details of the Black Forest Fire action report on the eve of the anniversary of the fire. Maketa wouldn't talk about the recent allegations of sexual improprieties in his office. (AP Photo/The Gazette, Christian Murdock)
El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa speaks to the press Tuesday, June 10, 2014, at the Sheriff's Office in Colorado Springs, Colo., about the details of the Black Forest Fire action report on the eve of the anniversary of the fire. Maketa wouldn't talk about the recent allegations of sexual improprieties in his office. (AP Photo/The Gazette, Christian Murdock) 

An El Paso County prosecutor testified Thursday that she blocked Sheriff Terry Maketa from pursuing what she considered a "hit list" of employees whose careers he wanted to damage.

Senior Deputy District Attorney Amy Fitch described receiving a December 2013 memo from the Sheriff's Office suggesting several new entries for the Brady list - a public record identifying officers who had been caught in a lie or accused of a crime.

Fitch said she recognized some of the new names from media coverage documenting complaints about Maketa that ultimately led him to leave office under a cloud.

"It was a huge red flag when we saw that," said Fitch, who was responsible for maintaining the Brady list for the local District Attorney's Office. "My initial thought was, 'It's a hit list.'"

Her testimony came as prosecutors turned their focus to allegations that Maketa committed official misconduct when the Sheriff's Office sought to sanction three sheriff's employees by including them on the list - allegedly because they supported then-sheriff's candidate Bill Elder, who ultimately was elected to replace Maketa.

Two of them - deputy Charles Kull and Sgt. Emory Gerhart - were previously subjected to what prosecutors described as sham investigations related to a missing Internal Affairs file they say wasn't really missing. The third, James "Jim" Reid, was considering a run for sheriff when Maketa was backing Undersheriff Paula Presley as his successor.

In denying claims of retaliation, Maketa's attorneys focused on indications that performance problems, not politics, were to blame.

The defense also sought to distance Maketa from the Brady list memo, repeatedly noting during cross-examination of Fitch that it was sent by the sheriff's staff attorney, Charles Greenlee, based on an audit performed by Lt. Joseph Roybal.

Fitch testified that she was wary of the memo from the start, saying it was unusual for a law enforcement agency to request that names be added. Normally, police agencies do what they can to keep officers from being on the list, she said.

Her suspicions were stoked when she saw the memo also named former sheriff's deputy Henry Allen for inclusion. Presley had previously attempted to place Allen on the Brady list, but that request was denied, Fitch said.

Fitch said she asked Greenlee to convey a request to Maketa to furnish additional details about why the deputies should be added - a standard step before approving new entries. Through Greenlee, Maketa declined to answer any questions, she said.

The District Attorney's Office decided to table the memo until Elder was in office, and the new sheriff dropped the request, she said.

Kull and Gerhart also took the stand on Thursday, telling jurors they resigned in December 2013 amid allegations they were involved in the file's disappearance - a claim both denied.

Kull said he was one of Elder's earliest supporters and one of the first to add his name to Elder's public campaign website.

He and Gerhart were also involved in discussions about an effort to form a deputies union, another source of friction with the Maketa administration, they said.

During a meeting held in December 2013 to explore unionizing, one of the people present, Wendy Habert, received a text from the sheriff's wife, Vicki Maketa, saying "something along the lines of, 'I hope your meeting goes well,'" Kull testified.

Habert, who hosted the meeting in her house, is another alleged victim in the case, claiming that she was fired by her employer, a jail health care contractor, at Maketa's insistence because she refused a request by Presley to help her run for sheriff in 2014.

Kull's claim that he was the victim of retaliation drew scrutiny from the defense, which walked him through portions of 10 prior personnel investigations conducted against him, including seven in a two-year period beginning in 2012.

Sitting at the defense table in a dark suit, Maketa smiled with satisfaction as Kull blamed each major allegation on a vendetta against him rather than misconduct.

"I don't trust anybody whose name is on this report," Kull said at one point after being made to read portions of it.

Gerhart was likewise defiant under questioning, admitting that he complained about Kull's treatment to Fountain Police Chief Todd Evans and Bill Elder, then serving as deputy Fountain police chief and preparing his run for sheriff.

Gerhart answered "sure" and "absolutely" when asked about breaking protocol in discussing what were supposed to be confidential Internal Affairs investigations.

One of Maketa's attorneys, David Kaplan, called him "flippant" and accused him of breaking sheriff's policy as if it were "a normal course" of business.

"No, it was extraordinary times, counselor," Gerhart snapped back. At a different point, Gerhart told him: "I guess you had to be there."

Both Gerhart and Kull dismissed the claim they failed computerized voice stress analysis tests, a form of lie detector, saying they had no information to lie about.

"None then and none since," Kull said.

Kull said he decided to leave the Sheriff's Office after being tipped off by Sgt. Robert Stone of the Internal Affairs Unit that his days as a deputy were numbered. He learned his name was being considered for the Brady list while applying for a new job with Fountain police.

He landed that job, but briefly considered getting out of law enforcement because of the potential Brady list sanction.

"It makes it almost impossible to get hired somewhere again," Kull said.

Fitch said the El Paso County District Attorney's Office routinely receives inquiries from law enforcement agencies asking if job applicants are on the Brady list.

Both Gerhart and Kull received settlements in 2015 after filing civil claims in the wake of their departures - Gerhart for $87,920 and Kull for $120,000. Both were rehired at the Sheriff's Office under Elder. Gerhart serves as a sergeant and Kull has been twice promoted to lieutenant.

Maketa, 52, faces seven counts, including four felonies, on allegations that he abused his power for personal and political reasons during his troubled third and final term as sheriff. The three counts of official misconduct related to the Brady list represent the lowest charges against him.

Testimony resumes at 8:30 a.m. Friday with continued questioning of Gerhart by the defense.

Comment Policy
Register to the Colorado Springs Gazette
Incognito Mode Your browser is in Incognito mode

You vanished!

We welcome you to read all of our stories by signing into your account. If you don't have a subscription, please subscribe today for daily award winning journalism.

Register to the Colorado Springs Gazette
Register to the Colorado Springs Gazette
Subscribe to the Colorado Springs Gazette

It appears that you value local journalism. Thank you.

Subscribe today for unlimited digital access with 50% fewer ads for a faster browsing experience.

Already a Subscriber? LOGIN HERE

Subscribe to the Colorado Springs Gazette

It appears that you value local journalism. Thank you.

Subscribe today for unlimited digital access with 50% fewer ads for a faster browsing experience.

Subscribe to the Colorado Springs Gazette

Some news is free.
Exceptional journalism takes time, effort and your support.

Already a Subscriber? LOGIN HERE

articles remaining
×
Thank you for your interest in local journalism.
Gain unlimited access, 50% fewer ads and a faster browsing experience.