(Promoted by Colorado Pols)
Terry Maketa, former El Paso County Sheriff, resigned under pressure in 2014 after local journalists began writing exposes of his sexual harassment misconduct and financial malfeasance. His sheepish, wanna-be sexy shower selfie became a national laughing stock. Maketa’s reputation is shot; he will forever be the corrupt, sleazy, “shirtless sheriff” in the public’s mind. However, two of the charges in the indictment show a darker side: Maketa was an apologist and enabler of domestic violence by one of his employees.
Maketa was indicted by a grand jury on charges of extortion, official misconduct, witness tampering, kidnapping and false imprisonment in May of 2016 and he served one day in prison. The shower selfie was replaced by a mug shot. (Left, 5/26/16, from the Gilpin County Sheriff’s Office). Maketa
Maketa’s trial was postponed until June 6, 2017.
This week, George Brauchler, Colorado District Attorney, gubernatorial candidate, and special prosecutor in the Maketa case, has recommended that two of the nine outstanding charges against Maketa be dismissed. Why? Not for lack of evidence; the 11 page indictment leaves no doubt as to the facts of the case. Perhaps Maketa’s $10 million lawsuit against any organization that said anything negative about him from 2014-2016 might just be part of the reason Brauchler is pressing to dismiss the charges. Perhaps a deal has been made.
The charges in question are for kidnapping and false imprisonment of a female jail employee, who had complained of being beaten by her police officer boyfriend, a Deputy under Maketa’s supervision. The 11 page indictment relates how the woman was pressured to recant her testimony against her abuser, and was held in jail. Per Kirk Mitchell’s reporting in the Denver Post:
Her boyfriend, a deputy, had been arrested and later fired for beating her. Maketa allegedly told the woman to recant her statement and “tell investigators that she instigated the incident in order to allow (the deputy) to get his job back,” the indictment said. He later ordered her arrest, the indictment says.
The officer who arrested the woman felt that there was insufficient evidence to hold her, but had herself been pressured to make the arrest to protect the accused Deputy. Maketa’s co-defendents, fellow officers Paula Presley and Juan San Agustin, were also indicted for kidnapping, false imprisonment, and tampering with a witness.
Judge Schwarz will decide whether to dismiss these charges, but has asked for a gag order on the case, per reporting by Mitchell.
As a domestic assault survivor myself, this makes my blood boil. My abuser was not a cop, but I’ve been told by police to “patch it up”, to “not make trouble”, threatened with being arrested myself, or losing custody of my kids, if I pressed charges. I know other women for whom those threats were carried out. I wrote a diary about the problem of police-perpetrated domestic assault, and its relevance to the Maketa charges last year.
Forty percent of police surveyed reported that they had assaulted or threatened a family member, according to Purple Berets, a support group for victims of police domestic violence. These cases are rarely prosecuted. The “Code” protecting a fellow officer accuses victims and protects abusers. It is “the Blue Wall” around police perpetrators.
In a nationwide survey of 123 police departments, 45% had no specific policy for dealing with officer-involved domestic violence.
In that same survey, the most common discipline imposed for a sustained allegation of domestic violence was counseling. Only 19% of departments indicated that officers would be terminated after a second sustained allegation of domestic violence.
Mark Wynn, a retired Tennessee cop, has tried to change how police departments handle domestic abuse when one of their own is accused of violence. In their chilling article, “The Super Predators”, authors Jeltsen and Liebelson quote Wynn:
… the most effective solution of all is to screen prospective police officers for any history of domestic violence or sexual misconduct. He also advises departments to check whether they have protective orders anywhere they’ve lived or worked. Still, many of the chiefs Wynn talks to remain skeptical of his proposals, he said: “They say, ‘Oh, that doesn’t happen here. We’ve never had that problem.’”
Colorado Police Departments across the state have had “that problem”. If Brauchler’s recommendations are adopted by Judge Schwartz in this case, Colorado will continue to experience “that problem”, and the culture of silence behind the “Blue Wall” will grow.
DA Brauchler, and Judge Schwartz: I am asking you , as a survivor of domestic violence myself, to keep the charges against former Sheriff Maketa in place, and let him answer them and be accountable for his actions. Otherwise, you will be complicit in the preservation of a system which declares that a police officer accused of domestic violence should be protected, that his/ her department and fellow officers will cover up his crimes and persecute his victim. If you dismiss these charges, you will perpetuate a culture in which violence by police officers, even against their own family members or partners, is excused and covered up.
You will perpetuate a system in which a victim can have no confidence that her/his assaulter will be brought to justice, if the criminal is also a cop.