What is this woman hiding?
Two weeks ago, I pointed you to the festering corruption scandal involving President Obama’s US Attorney nominee in Colorado, Stephanie Villafuerte.
Villafuerte is entangled in the railroading of Denver ICE agent Cory Voorhis — whom federal prosecutors tried to punish after he blew the whistle on sweetheart deals for criminal illegal aliens during the 2006 gubernatorial campaign. A jury acquitted Voorhis of all federal charges. He’s trying to get his job back. At least one of his supervisors has admitted lying.
Villafuerte served on Democrat gubernatorial candidate Bill Ritter’s campaign team while on leave from the Denver D.A.’s office and from all local news accounts was deeply involved in the witchhunt against agent Voorhis.
But she refuses to answer any questions about her role in the case.
And now she is poised to take over as US Attorney.
Transparency? Ethics? Accountability? Anyone?
From the Denver Post, unresolved contradictions and double standards:
President Barack Obama’s nominee as Colorado’s next U.S. attorney told the FBI two years ago that she never spoke to anyone in the Denver District Attorney’s Office about an illegal immigrant who became a controversial figure in the 2006 gubernatorial race.
FBI interview summaries describe Stephanie Villafuerte as saying she had “no conversations” with anyone at the DA’s office about the illegal immigrant, Carlos Estrada-Medina.
But the FBI apparently never asked Villafuerte, the former chief deputy DA who was then working for Bill Ritter’s campaign, why she left a phone message for DA spokeswoman Lynn Kimbrough that Kimbrough noted was about Estrada-Medina. The FBI also apparently never asked her about the nature of a series of phone calls she exchanged over the next two days with Kimbrough and First Assistant DA Chuck Lepley. Those calls came both before and after an order by Lepley to a subordinate to run a criminal history check of Estrada-Medina in a restricted federal database.
It can be a crime to access the National Crime Information Center computer for a non-law-enforcement purpose.
In 2006 and 2007, the FBI was investigating who ran a check on Estrada-Medina’s name through the database after Bob Beauprez’s gubernatorial campaign ran a television ad confirming that Estrada-Medina, a suspected heroin dealer and illegal immigrant, had once received a plea deal under the name Walter Ramo while Ritter was Denver’s district attorney.
Eventually, a federal immigration agent named Cory Voorhis was charged with running an NCIC check on Estrada-Medina and providing the result to the Beauprez campaign. He was later acquitted at trial.
But the 10-year veteran, who maintained he accessed the NCIC with his supervisor’s permission because Voorhis was upset over plea deals made by Ritter’s office with deportable immigrants, lost his job and is now fighting through an administrative proceeding to get it back.
Law enforcement authorities were aware that the Denver DA’s office and a Texas investigator had also run Estrada-Medina’s name through the NCIC. No one in those offices was charged with a crime.
The Colorado GOP wants answers — and so should you:
Colorado GOP chairman Dick Wadhams on Monday asked the Senate Judiciary Committee in Washington to demand answers from Colorado U.S. attorney nominee Stephanie Villafuerte about whether she may have acted inappropriately during the 2006 gubernatorial campaign.
“Colorado deserves better than a U.S. attorney who apparently might have used her former employer, the Denver district attorney’s office, for blatant partisan political purposes to help Gov. Ritter in violation of the law,” Wadhams wrote in a letter to committee chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and ranking Republican Jeff Sessions of Alabama.
Villafuerte, currently Bill Ritter’s deputy chief of staff, has declined to answer questions from The Denver Post about what types of conversations she had with representatives from the Denver DA’s office in the days before and after a restricted federal database was accessed and whether that information was obtained to help Ritter’s campaign. FBI interview records do not indicate that she ever was asked about the access by the investigating agent.
Villafuerte, then a chief deputy Denver district attorney, had taken a leave of absence to work on Ritter’s campaign. Ritter is the former Denver DA.
The Post reported Friday that statements by Villafuerte and other DA representatives — as described by an agent in recently obtained FBI interview summaries — do not always comport with available records, and the summaries portray the witnesses offering conflicting explanations on some key points.
Villafuerte has declined to speak about the issue over the past two years, and last week, Ritter spokesman Evan Dreyer said the U.S. Department of Justice has asked her not to talk to the media until after the nomination process is over.
And whaddya know? Voorhis has now been conveniently gagged by an administrative order.
The Denver Post editorial board wants answers from the Senate Judiciary Committee — and so should you:
Over the past two years, Villafuerte has declined requests from The Post to describe her contact with former colleagues at the Denver District Attorney’s office around the time the database was accessed.
But the Senate Judiciary Committee needs to ask her about it. The public deserves to know more details about the incident before Villafuerte gets any closer to becoming the state’s top federal prosecutor.
Post reporter Karen E. Crummy obtained FBI records about the incident, which took place when Villafuerte was working for Bill Ritter’s gubernatorial campaign. The controversy began when Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez ran an ad that said Ritter, the former Denver district attorney and the Democratic candidate for governor, had given an illegal immigrant a lenient plea bargain. That immigrant went on, the ad said, to commit a sex crime in California.
The Ritter camp contended that in order to link the criminal, Carlos Estrada-Medina, to crimes in both Colorado and California, a restricted federal criminal database would have to have been accessed. Ritter’s campaign was incensed, and called for the Colorado Bureau of Investigation to investigate.
Eventually, Cory Voorhis, a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent, was charged with improperly accessing the database. He was found not guilty at trial, but lost his job anyway.
Meanwhile, we had other questions that quickly arose. How did Ritter’s campaign know the dots could only be connected by accessing the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database? And what to make of a series of phone calls that Villafuerte, then working for Ritter’s campaign, made to the Denver district attorney’s office around the time the DA’s office accessed Estrada-Medina’s records?
What precisely was the nature of Villafuerte’s interaction with the DA’s office when the NCIC was accessed? Did Villafuerte ask her former co-workers in the DA’s office to access it to confirm the Estrada- Medina information?
Villafuerte, according to FBI interview summaries, said she had “no conversations” with anyone about Estrada-Medina. But Lynn Kimbrough, a DA spokeswoman who got a phone message from Villafuerte at the time in question, noted the message pertained to Estrada-Medina.
Why was Villafuerte calling Kimbrough about Estrada-Medina? And what was the content of the phone conversations or messages that Villafuerte had with or left for Kimbrough and First Assistant DA Chuck Lepley during the following days?
Call the Senate Judiciary Committee:
United States Senate
Committee on the Judiciary
224 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Fax:202-224-9516 Minority Office
More coverage at Main Justice.
Cory Voorhis’s legal defense fund page is here, with links to many pre-gag order interviews.