Time to Lawyer Up, Libby

We told you about this yesterday (and we were the first to report it, by the way) about Republican Libby Szabo’s problems with her direct mail — one of which rises to the level of a Class 5 Felony.

Well, according to a release from the Colorado Democratic Party, it looks like Szabo is going to need a lawyer:

A criminal complaint was filed with the Jefferson County District Attorney’s office today against Republican State House District 27 candidate Libby Szabo. The complaint was filed by unaffiliated voter Julie Callahan, a resident of District 27, who had decided “enough was enough.”…

…Callahan’s complaint cites Szabo’s two violations of Colorado’s criminal statutes in separate political mailings sent to voters of HD-27: false and reckless statements relating to a candidate and illegal use of the official seal of the State of Colorado.

In one negative mailing, Szabo falsely claims that Sara Gagliardi’s campaign is under investigation by the Jefferson County District Attorney’s office. The Jefferson County DA’s office has confirmed that no such complaint exists, which establishes in law that Szabo has knowingly and recklessly made false statements about Sara Gagliardi. In a second negative mailing, criticized in the press for including a photo of a Hepatitis C victim that Rep. Gagliardi sought justice for, Szabo illegally uses the state seal.

We wouldn’t expect the first complaint to get very far — there have been plenty of cases in the past of candidates putting out false information in mailings or advertisements, but local district attorney’s hardly ever pursue them (both because of the time and resources that would be involved, and because they don’t want to wade into a partisan fight).

But the second complaint is pretty much a cut-and-dried case. It is a Class 5 Felony to use the state seal of Colorado without consent. There’s no question her campaign used the seal in its mailings; if they didn’t have consent, then there’s not much else they can do besides starting a conversation about a plea deal.

More Trouble With Mail Pieces: The Felony Version

There’s a story in the main Denver newspaper today from Lynn Bartels about a woman who is unhappy that her picture was used in a negative mailer used to attack Rep. Sara Gagliardi that was sent out by Republican challenger Libby Szabo. But there’s more trouble with this mailer than just a complaint from someone who was featured without her permission, and Szabo could be facing a felony charge as a result. Can you spot the problem?

The mailer sent out by Szabo uses the State Seal of Colorado in the background, which under Colorado law is a Class 5 Felony. We can’t tell you why using the State Seal of Colorado carries such a harsh penalty, but the law is the law. The penalty for a class 5 felony is (a) a fine no less than $1,000 and a maximum of $100,000; (b) one to three years in prison; and (c) two years of mandatory parole.

In other words, somebody — Szabo, her graphic designer, her mail house, etc. — is in serious trouble here. It’s not like there’s really a good defense for this, because the proof is right there in front of you.  

Jumping the Gun With Libby Szabo

TUESDAY UPDATE: Reporter Lynn Bartels of the Denver newspaper is up with a new story today about these basically illegible mailers sent by GOP House candidate Libby Szabo–this one could be quite a bit worse for Szabo than the “false statement false statement” brouhaha described in our post below. It appears that Szabo has been using a picture of a bill signing featuring Gov. Bill Ritter and Szabo’s opponent, Rep. Sara Gagliardi, next to lists of all kinds of horrible things Gagliardi has supposedly done. Here’s an example we received this weekend, Bartels posted a different flyer using the same photo:

The women in the center of this photo, standing directly behind Gov. Ritter, is Lauren Lollini, who as Bartels reports is one of 18 people who contracted hepatitis C due to the actions of a surgical technician at Rose Medical Center. The technician, Kristen Parker, passed the infection after stealing and using their pain medication. In response to Parker’s crimes, Rep. Gagliardi got legislation passed to tighten monitoring of surgical technicians. This is the photo of that bill-signing–obviously to the Szabo campaign, the circumstances of that bill signing were irrelevant. They just wanted a picture of Ritter and Gagliardi together.

But Ms. Lollini seems likely to make Szabo pay for misusing her picture, as an innocent bystander justifiably proud of what the photo actually depicts. Original post follows.

Here’s the latest mailer from GOP HD-27 candidate Libby Szabo–the problem here may not be easy to spot, and not just because it’s the most cluttered and amateurish flyer you’ve ever seen. You’ll be pleased to note that Barack Obama is nowhere in this flyer compared to “The Antichrist,” so at least that’s something.

Spot the problem? In this official flyer from Szabo’s campaign, it’s asserted that Jefferson County DA Scott Storey is “currently investigating” opponent Sara Gagliardi for “knowingly lying.”

The problem is, we seriously doubt anyone is ‘investigating’ Sara Gagliardi. There’s a difference between anybody who wants to merely filing a complaint, and a prosecutor actually investigating a complaint. Everybody with any experience with these things knows that complaints are filed like they’re nothing during every election, but actual investigations under the statute outlawing “knowingly false statements”–let alone convictions–are practically unheard of. Most district attorneys prefer to spend resources on more serious crimes, and are loathe to give the appearance of taking a side politically. All of this would make the allegation that Gagliardi is being ‘investigated’ itself a “false statement,” wouldn’t it? Oops!

There is a case in El Paso County that’s been confirmed under investigation, the mutual allegations of plagiarism between Republican Owen Hill and Libertarian Doug Randall, but that’s a much different case than some he-said-she-said about a mailer that was, in all likelihood, sent by a 527–just like the mailers Arvada residents are getting saying Sara Gagliardi wants to eat their children.

Also, 527 mailers are legible, which really helps.

Libby Szabo, Barack Obama, and the Anti-Christ

Some of you will remember 2008 SD-19 candidate Libby Szabo, who ran unsuccessfully against now-incumbent Sen. Evie Hudak of Arvada. It was an interesting race: Hudak, it can be gently said, doesn’t have the most commanding stage presence. Fortunately her opponent was Szabo, who, if you haven’t had the pleasure, has a voice even more nasal and grating than Craig Silverman.

Well, Libby Szabo is back this year, running against Sara Gagliardi in HD-27, and once again the focus of high GOP hopes.

Szabo was hurt in 2008 by a questionnaire filled out for Colorado Right to Life, where she indicated that she opposed all abortions–even in cases of rape. She strongly backed 2008’s “personhood” initiative and is expected to do so again this year. Her base of political support primarily revolves around Faith Bible Chapel in Arvada, one of the more influential evangelical megachurches in the northwest Denver area.

Everybody’s got freedom of religion, of course, and we’d say that religious belief should only become a political issue where someone applies religion to their politics. Libby’s husband Denes Szabo is an instructor at the Faith Bible Institute of Biblical Studies, and a selection of his lectures is available on the church’s website. Mr. Szabo’s specialty is “Israel and the End Times,” and on March 9th of this year, he had some interesting things to say about those “End Times”–and President Barack Obama. You, um, know where this isn’t going, don’t you? Audio excerpt, which you really have to hear to believe:

Can’t see the audio player? Click here.

So, apparently some people have made T-shirts with a picture of Obama with a halo, and that’s blasphemous, and the Anti-Christ is going to scare people by promising health care reform, and people are going to “fall for it hook, line and sinker,” and…uh…

Of course, Obama’s popularity has suffered in the last year and a half, making him a popular ogre for lots of disaffected people–sure. We get that. Despite this, we still tend to think if Libby or Denes say too much about Obama’s eerie similarity with “the anti-Christ” on the campaign trail, Libby’s candidacy for the House–at least among the majority of sane voters in HD-27–will get martyred about five minutes later.