Republicans Just Can’t Shake the Shirtless Sheriff

Former El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa, aka the “Shirtless Sheriff.”

Former El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa, aka the “Shirtless Sheriff,” continues to plague Republicans even though he formally left office more than two years ago.

As we noted last week, Maketa somehow skated on all seven charges related to official misconduct and witness tampering dating back to his controversial tenure as Sheriff in the  most staunchly-conservative county in Colorado. Maketa’s alleged crimes are numerous and well-documented, which is why many political observers in Colorado were more than a little surprised to see him escape penalty in a trial that wrapped up last week. Jurors deadlocked on four of the charges against Maketa, which creates a significant problem for Arapahoe County District Attorney — and candidate for Governor — George Brauchler.

As Lance Benzel reports for the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman:

In failing to resolve the criminal case against ex-El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa, a District Court jury forced a dilemma on a candidate for governor.

A veteran political observer says the decision on whether to retry the embattled lawman on four remaining counts could have political costs for Republican gubernatorial candidate George Brauchler, who leads the 18th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, which prosecuted the case.

If Brauchler’s office decides to drop Maketa’s charges, Brauchler could be accused of letting a fellow Republican skate on sweeping allegations of corruption.

If his office pushes for a new trial, he could alienate parts of the Republican base in El Paso County, where Maketa has his sympathizers.

“It’s a media disaster,” said Bob Loevy, a retired Colorado College political science professor and longtime political analyst in El Paso County. “To have this stretch into the gubernatorial primary and then possibly the general election in 2018, the Republican Party doesn’t need that at all, not in its most significant county.”

El Paso County boasts more Republicans than any county in the state. Although it doesn’t always have the numbers to sway a general election, it does have the potential to decide which Republican makes it past the primary, Loevy said.

Arapahoe County DA George Brauchler.

Regardless of whether or not Maketa faces a new trial, Brauchler has already incurred heavy damage because it fuels the perception that he seems to come up short in high-profile court cases. The Maketa case was handled by Brauchler’s office because the El Paso County DA was conflicted out of handing the charges directly. Brauchler chose Mark Hurlbert — yes the same Hurlbert who infamously tried to prosecute basketball star Kobe Bryant many years ago — to handle the Maketa case, and now he’s going to have to get even more involved than he would have liked:

Brauchler did not personally prosecute the Maketa case, which ended in a partial mistrial last week when a jury acquitted the former three-term sheriff on three counts and failed to reach a verdict on four others.

But he will be personally involved in the decision whether to retry Maketa, lead prosecutor Mark Hurlbert said after the verdicts. [Pols emphasis]

Brauchler has been facing criticism from fellow Republican gubernatorial candidates about his decision to run for Governor while still working full-time as the DA in the 18th Judicial District, and the Maketa trial puts a new spotlight on that controversy.

Is Brauchler doing a disservice to the people of Arapahoe County, and now El Paso County, by trying to tackle two full-time jobs at once? It was an inevitable problem for Brauchler anyway, but there are now some very real — and very public — consequences for his decision. It’s difficult to convince voters that you should lead the state as Governor when your opponents can make a solid case that you’ve been asleep at the wheel in your current position.

7 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. mamajama55mamajama55 says:

    Brauchler contributed to this fiasco by recommending to Judge Schwartz that he drop the charges of kidnapping and false imprisonment against Maketa.

    Now Maketa's likely to walk on all of the charges, and that is a blow for the taxpayers of El Paso County, who paid for his corruption and extravagance, it is a punch in the gut for domestic violence victims and advocates because Maketa jailed the victim of a deputy's assault, asking her to recant charges.

     Not exactly the stellar record Golden Boy Brauchler would want heading into the Governor's race.

  2. ZappateroZappatero says:

    This stuff is horseshit and you are making EXACTLY ZERO DIFFERENCE in the political culture or in promoting any policy improvements that would help Coloradans. 

    • mamajama55mamajama55 says:

      a. Who you directing that ire to, Zappatero?

      b. Why?

      • ZappateroZappatero says:

        Directed to Jason and/or whoever posts as "ColoradoPols". 

        Why? Because of the overwhelming focus on the superficial, the desire to be the Chris Cilliza of CO media, the facade that this is a political blog that shouldn't address policy yet that addresses policy whenever it wants, but usually only if it can be used against a Republican. 

    • FrankUnderwood says:

      Like your tirades of diatribes against anyone who is not sufficiently left wing nut enough to satisfy your fetish for ideological purity does anything to improve the political culture or promotes any policy improvements?

    • Diogenesdemar says:

      This stuff is horseshit and you are making EXACTLY ZERO DIFFERENCE in the political culture or in promoting any policy improvements that would help Coloradans. 

  3. FrankUnderwood says:

    If and when – more likely when – Maketa walks, he should throw his hat (or shirt) into the ring and join Owen Hill and Daryl Glenn in challenging Doug Lamborn.

    Either that, or enter that bathroom selfie in the El Paso County GOP Beefcake of the Month calendar. What a fundraising idea: Terry Maketa as Mr. January, Bill Cadman as Mr. February, Doug Bruce as Mr. March, Lamborn as Mr. April……. 

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