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Kopel: Ad targeting Buck misfires

Posted by David Kopel on October 7th, 2010
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An out-of-state organization is spending $750,000 for a highly misleading commercial against Ken Buck, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Colorado. The commercial presents a distorted tale of Buck’s role in standing up against the political persecution of three licensed firearms dealers.

The ad is sponsored by a group called “Campaign Money Watch,” based in Washington, D.C., whose main activity appears to be buying negative - and in this case, inaccurate - TV commercials. A full disclosure of their 2010 donors is not available.

Major donors in the past include anti-gun billionaire George Soros, Colorado heiress Pat Stryker, government employee unions such as AFSCME and SEIU, the Colorado First Project (funded by government unions) and Moveon.org.

The commercial presents a deceptively selective version of a clash between Ken Buck and Tom Strickland. At the time, Buck was the chief of the criminal division of the United States Attorney’s Office in Colorado, and Strickland was his boss, the U.S. Attorney for Colorado.

Here are some crucial facts omitted from the advertisement:

In 1998, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms asked the U.S. Attorney’s Office to bring a prosecution for alleged straw purchases of firearms. Buck determined that the case was unfit for prosecution. He was backed up by Colorado United States Attorney Henry Solano, who had been appointed by President Clinton in 1993.  The case involved a pawn shop run by Gregory Golyansky, his brother, and his cousin.

The day after the Columbine High School murders in 1999, Strickland took over as U.S. Attorney. Strickland had been defeated in the 1996 U.S. Senate election. He ran as a strong advocate of gun control, and he would run again in 2002. Strickland insisted that the case be prosecuted.

Not one career prosecutor in the United States Attorney’s Office would take the case. Assistant United States Attorney Stephanie Villafuerte, who later served as a top aide to Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter, wrote a lengthy memo dissecting the many problems with the case.

Because none of the career prosecutors would take the case, Strickland gave it to two political appointees he brought into the office.

Gregory Golyansky and his relatives were apparently targeted for prosecution because of his outspoken advocacy on Second Amendment issues.

Indictments were issued in 2000. When the case proceeded, the Federal District Court for Colorado and the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit unanimously agreed that the prosecutors in the case illegally withheld exculpatory evidence. United States v. Golyansky, 291 F.3d 1245 (10th Cir. 2002).

In particular, the prosecutors disobeyed the direct order of Federal District Judge Daniel Sparr to turn over certain evidence to the defendants. Instead, the prosecutors concealed the evidence for years. Judge Sparr determined that the prosecutors had violated the Judge’s “specific orders in this case.”

The evidence which prosecutors had been hiding showed that their main witness was a homeless drug addict with bipolar syndrome, whose credibility was obviously extremely weak.

The prosecutors’ abusive and unlawful delaying tactics exhausted forced the defendants to sell their family business in order to pay for their lawyer.

Before any indictments had been issued, Buck discussed the facts with Colorado State Rep. Shawn Mitchell, R-Broomfield. Buck incorrectly believed that rules for attorneys allowed such discussion, because no formal case yet existed.

Strickland filed a complaint against Buck, and tried to coerce him into resigning. Strickland’s successor, John Suthers, formally determined that Buck’s “conduct was not intentional,” but that Buck should take further training regarding the rules. Buck took a one-day ethics class.

Golyansky, out of money, accepted a plea bargain in November 2002 to a single misdemeanor. Judge Sparr chose to sentence Golyansky to only a single day of probation. The sentence clearly showed Judge Sparr’s disgust with the prosecutorial abuses of grotesque overcharging, and of illegally concealing evidence.

For additional information on the Golyansky case, read this article by Ari Armstrong, for Colorado Freedom Report; this well-researched article from the Denver Post; a report from 7News; and watch this 15-minute video by the Golyansky family detailing the persecution.

[Video cued up at 5:51]

The Campaign Money Watch “validation” for the advertisement provides citations to The Denver Post article.

But the self-validation elides the essential, and false, claim of the advertisement: the twice-repeated assertion that Golyansky was an “illegal gun dealer.” To the contrary, Golyansky pleaded guilty to a single charge of not filling out paperwork properly. 

Tom Strickland utterly failed to prove that Golyansky ever sold a single gun to a person who was not allowed by law to buy guns. If Strickland’s team had a solid case, they would not have spent years illegally concealing the evidence. Indeed, the illegal concealment is itself strong evidence of attempt to use the 37-felony charges to frighten the three defendants into pleading guilty, so that the prosecutors would never have to reveal how weak their charges of illegal gun sales really were.

Buck’s opponent, U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., claims that he supports the rights of gun owners. If he means this, he could denounce this misleading advertisement, and forthrightly stand up against the political persecution of Second Amendment activists.

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    ABOUT THE AUTHOR: David Kopel
    Dave Kopel is Research Director of the Independence Institute, a think tank in Golden, Colo. He wrote a biweekly media analysis column for the Rocky Mountain News from 2001 until the paper's demise in 2009. He writes frequently for The Volokh Conspiracy, a law and policy weblog, and for America's 1st Freedom, a NRA member magazine.

One Response to “Kopel: Ad targeting Buck misfires”

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Dave Kopel, Ari Armstrong. Ari Armstrong said: RT @davekopel Ad targeting Buck misfires. In truth, Buck stood up to political prosecution of firearms store. WhoSaid http://t.co/YG0nIms [...]

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