Hard Case

Cherry Creek lawyer Michael Andre defended Denver's dark side, until he succumbed to his own.

September 2007

On a crisp Friday morning in late February, Marlene Hogan pulled her Pontiac G6 to a curb in Cherry Creek. She was talking to a friend on her cell phone as she got out, grabbed her buckets, mop, and sweeper, walked up to the house on South Monroe Street, and rang the doorbell. Even though she'd been cleaning there for two years and had her own key, she liked to ring the bell so she wouldn't surprise anyone who might be home. No one came to the door, so she entered, put down her cleaning supplies, and sat down on the beige carpeted steps. One of the owners' Yorkie puppies, Lilly, sat at her feet, and Marlene petted the dog as she continued her conversation.

Moments later, she heard footsteps coming up the basement stairs. It must be Marie. Kayla would already be at school, and the man of the house would already be at his law office. Marlene stood up, looking down through the banister spindles toward the basement. She didn't see Marie's dark hair, though. It was a shaved head, the head of Michael Andre—"Andre" to his friends.

It had been a while since Marlene had seen him; he'd been extra busy lately with cases. The media attention on one of his clients—Willie Clark, a "person of interest" in the shooting of Bronco Darrent Williams—had finally subsided, but the 38-year-old Andre still had been working a double caseload.

Marlene was about to grab her stuff and move upstairs when Andre rounded the steps. A shortish 5 feet 7 inches or so, he was slim and only a little taller than her. He wasn't wearing a shirt—or shoes, for that matter. Just a pair of green basketball shorts. In his hands were two black pistols. As he walked forward, he pointed the guns at her head, stopping three feet from her. Speaking in a calm, quiet voice, he cocked the guns' hammers.

"Get the fuck out of my house."

The Previous Evening

Jon Thomerson walked into Michael Andre's law office at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, February 22. The office is perched on Lincoln Park at 11th and Osage, about a mile west of the Denver County Courthouse—on the fringe, just the way Andre liked it.

Thomerson had been at the jail talking to a few of Andre's clients. The two worked closely together, with Andre composing the briefs and Thomerson, his private investigator, doing the grittier work—reinterviewing suspects and witnesses. His goal was always the same: gather enough detail to undermine or disprove what Andre was convinced were the police department's intentionally vague cases.

Thomerson enjoyed the work. It was better than being a waiter. That's how the two met, waiting tables at Bennigan's in Boulder—Andre to pay for law school, Thomerson to pay the bills. It was a running joke back then that Andre would be a lawyer and Thomerson his wily investigator. Thomerson eventually started C.D. Investigations—a playful spin on "seedy"—in 2001, and soon enough was working with his friend on 50 cases a year.

It had been a long day. Hell, it had been a long week, and it was only Thursday. Thomerson stretched out his compact frame on Andre's couch and relayed the conversations he'd had with the lawyer's jailed clientele.

Seated behind his big oak desk amidst piles of folders and briefs, Andre seemed a little distracted as he fiddled with his computer. But he appeared refreshed; earlier in the week, Thomerson thought, Andre had looked exhausted. Just over a month ago, he'd let go of a lawyer he'd employed because he thought he could do the work quicker himself. He'd taken on all her clients—mostly traffic tickets and misdemeanors—which had doubled his already hectic caseload.

Today, though, Andre was his usual giddy self. To his left hung a treasured portrait of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The print was a gift to Andre from his parents, the only thing he wanted for his office after his prolonged struggle to pass the Colorado Bar exam. Andre found it inspiring. It wasn't the stirring, charismatic King of "I Have a Dream" speeches; it was the pensive, gentle King, hands crossed, pondering his next lectern-thumping sermon.

Andre appreciated a good sermon. He relished the chance to captivate a courtroom audience. He was good it at, not bombastic but charismatic. His professional idol was Atticus Finch, the earnest defense attorney in To Kill a Mockingbird. Andre loved how Finch defended a poor black man falsely accused of raping a white woman in the 1930s South, simply because he knew it was right, reputation and personal safety be damned.