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

Douglas Bruce. Gazette file photo

The author of Colorado's Taxpayer's Bill of Rights has been found guilty of violating his probation and will be resentenced in March. 

Douglas Bruce, a former state representative and county commissioner, will be resentenced March 11. Judge Sheila A. Rappaport ruled in a Jan. 19 order that he violated five terms of his probation.

Bruce was convicted in 2012 of tax evasion, filing a false tax return and trying to influence a public servant. He faced up to 12 years in jail, but was sentenced to 180 days in jail and six years probation. He was released from jail after 104 days for good behavior.

It is unclear what kind of punishment Bruce faces at his re-sentencing hearing. In its original complaint, the Denver Adult Probation asked that Bruce be granted another term of probation. In a subsequent complaint, with more alleged violations, the probation department requested he be sent back to jail in addition to a new probation period.

In the original March 2015 complaint, his probation officers said he failed to notify them of a traffic ticket, didn't turn over his 2012 and 2013 tax returns and did not fill out a required financial disclosure statement. He also allegedly failed to notify his probation officers of a financial arrangement with Colorado Springs Councilwoman Helen 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 that home.

On almost all counts, Rappaport sided with the prosecution. The state was not able to prove that Bruce ever received the financial disclosure statement, she ruled.

Throughout the probation violation hearing, drawn out over three months, Bruce argued that his probation terms were unclear and said he always reported to his probation officer exactly what she requested. For example, even though his written probation terms stated he was supposed to report law enforcement contacts immediately, he said he did not report being stopped for a suspected traffic violation by an El Paso County Sheriff's Deputy because his probation officer asked him if he had any "police" contact. In many cases, he argued the definition of words, stating that, under certain definitions, there were no violations.

The judge was not convinced by those arguments.

"In his defense, Defendant claims that the alleged violations of Economic Crime Probation are the product of financial and mental confusion by probation. The Court determines otherwise and finds that the terms disputed by Defendant are succinct, clear, and explicit. They are terms of common usage and certainly understandable to a person of Defendant's acumen."

Neither was the judge swayed by the testimony of Colorado Springs City Councilwoman Helen Collins, who stated that she allowed Bruce to deed his mother's home to keep the buyer from pulling out once it was realized that Bruce was a felon.

The prosecution argued that Collins agreed to put her name on the property to help Bruce avoid paying a lien and a judgment from the City of Colorado Springs. Rappaport wrote that Bruce was not being transparent in the transaction, as required by the terms of his probation.

That financial transaction also prompted an ethics complaint against Collins. The complaint resulted in an independent ethics hearing in early January. The city council is awaiting the recommendation of the hearing officer after which it will decide whether to uphold or amend it.

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The judge's ruling in Bruce's case is unlikely to impact the ethics complaint.

"Those are two separate things," said Merv Bennett, council president. "We are waiting for the hearing officer to give his decision (on the ethics complaint)."

He would not comment on either the Bruce probation or the Collins ethics complaint.

"This is something that will have to come back to council for a final decision, I'm not willing to respond to that."

When convicted in 2012, jurors took just four hours to decide to convict Bruce. At his original sentencing, District Judge Ann Mansfield said she didn't want to keep him from making a living, but did want "absolute transparency about how he does that."

Mansfield said at the time that she was skeptical he could do it.

"His behavior is used to gauge his likelihood of success on probation. It requires abiding by strict rules. I have serious reservations Bruce can be successful," she said.

Bruce did not respond Tuesday to messages requesting comment.

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Contact Maria St. Louis-Sanchez: 636-0238

Twitter @mariastlouis

Facebook: Gazette Maria St. Louis-Sanchez

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