Aspen Sheriff Angry Over Drug Bust

December 6 2005, 8:50 PM

Aspen Sheriff Bob Braudis and his deputies are angry over last week's drug bust at Little Annie's and the Cooper Street Pier -- and rightfully so. The Aspen Police and the DEA conducted the busts without notifying him. Aspen Police Chief Loren Ryerson admits he was at fault, but his explanation is wanting.

"It was a huge mistake on my part. I got focused on talking to my boss and my council people and I straight up neglected to tell him about it," said Ryerson, who had a long meeting with Braudis on Monday morning after exchanging phone calls over the weekend. "The nature of the investigation was the actual number of people who knew about it were very, very few. It was never our intention not to tell (the sheriff's office). It was just one of the things that I didn't get to. ... I apologized to (Braudis). ... We have some work to do on how we agree to handle these things in the future and I'm sure we'll be able to move on. We enjoy a good working relationship with the sheriff's office and the omission wasn't to exclude them, but to protect the integrity of the information."

Excuse me? Ryerson had time to call members of the City Council and fax the media to alert them, but not the Sheriff, with whom his department shares office space? He even prepared and sent out a press release that falsely said Aspen Sheriff deputies were part of the raids. He also asked for and received assistance from Snowmass police for the raids. Braudis says relations have never been worse between the two agencies:

"It's very strained, especially in my investigative suite," he said. "(County detectives) Joe DiSalvo and Ron Ryan want to separate themselves from (city detectives) Chris Womack and Eric Ross. They have expressed to Schaffer and to me that there is no trust between them -- they do not trust those guys." ...Braudis said his investigators do not trust Ryerson's detectives because his investigators allegedly were flat-out lied to about the pending drug raids.

I suspect the real reason Braudis wasn't told is because the DEA asked for him not to be. Braudis and the DEA have been at loggerheads before.

For the past 17 years of his five terms as sheriff, Braudis has spoken out against undercover drug enforcement work and task forces, and his citizens have supported him. Braudis believes the drug war was lost 30 years ago, that drug addiction is a medical issue not a legal issue and that, for his officers, it's an expensive, dangerous and not-so-beneficial proposition. They do enforce drug-related laws in Pitkin County. If a citizen calls in a complaint, deputies investigate. People pulled over for traffic stops with a stash in the glovebox still pout when it gets confiscated. And if other agencies need to come in to Pitkin County to conduct a sting, Braudis gives them deputies to secure a perimeter or enhance the safety of an operation. But that's where Braudis draws the line.

The DEA's distrust of Braudis goes back at least to 1979:

The United States Attorney's office in Denver issued eight subpoenas for local law enforcement agents last week, it was learned. Included in the list are District Attorney Chuck Leidner, DA investigator Mike Fisher, ex-deputy District Attorney Debbie Quinn, Pitkin County Sheriff Dick Kienast, Sheriff's department official Don Davis, Sheriff's deputy Bob Braudis, Aspen Police Chief Rob McClung, and ex-district attorney's secretary Nancy Baxter. Apparently the subpoenas stem from the August Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) bust made in the Roaring Fork Valley. A grand jury will look into the possibility of whether or not the local law agents did obstruct justice during the DEA busts or just prior to them, sources said.

Someone needs to ask the Aspen Police Chief if he was instructed not to tell Braudis about the raid -- or if it was at his suggestion. His mea culpa and explanation are woefully inadequate.

Tags: