Michael Hancock & Denver Players prostitution ring: Bound for an Anthony Weiner moment?
Update below: Yesterday, former Denver Players owner Scottie Ewing claimed that "EVERY reporter in Denver" wanted a look at records he said linked mayor-elect Michael Hancock to the prostitution ring that brought down Judge Edward Nottingham -- and plenty obviously did. Last night, 7News and Fox31 finally aired stories about the alleged connection, using records from Hancock's panicky legal team to bolster Ewing's claims.
Hancock on 7News.
Ewing, who's currently serving a six-month home arrest sentence for Denver Players-related tax evasion (and who once told a Westword reporter, "You have no clue how close I was to having you put in the fucking hospital"), isn't exactly the most reliable source. Indeed, in an e-mail to Westword's Patricia Calhoun yesterday, he admitted that he lied to KHOW talk-show host Peter Boyles about placing reportedly stolen records pertaining to Denver Players in a secure location "because I was sick of interviews and showing them."
Maybe so -- but Fox31's latest piece, on view below, states that Ewing came to the station last week with the story that Hancock's name and personal cell phone number were on a Denver Players client/payment list, not the other way around.
The station's Libby Weaver introduced the outlet's item, delivered by Heidi Hemmat, by noting that managers had held the story, which had already appeared on CompleteColorado.com, Westword and talk radio, because of the journalistic rule that forbids going with a story based on a single source. Perhaps she should have added, "Especially when that source is Scottie Ewing." Indeed, both Fox31 and 7News (whose video isn't embeddable; join the 21st century, guys) went out of their way to avoid mentioning his moniker in their televised packages, although he's name-checked in the text versions linked above. Fox31 went so far as to include an interview with Ewing in which he's cast in shadow -- an appropriate image.
So what convinced the stations to move forward? Pre-election requests from Hancock's legal team to Denver police asking for any video evidence showing the candidate or his vehicle near Denver Players' 1675 Fillmore Street address or ancillary locations. Moreover, Hancock's attorneys added, ""(U)nder no circumstances are we authorizing or consenting to the release of the request materials directly to [news agencies] and hereby object to their request."
Turns out Denver police reps have no such video. But 7News obtained an e-mail to from a Hancock lawyer to the Manager of Safety's Office pertaining to a Denver Post info search on the subject. The attorney told the city that if nothing damning popped up, officials could divulge the fact to the Post -- but if something did, sharing such revelations would violate Hancock's privacy interests. (The Post has still not reported about the Hancock-Denver Players allegations.)
Asking the police for video shouldn't be interpreted as an admission of guilt on Hancock's part, Fox31 legal expert Dan Recht stresses in the clip below. Rather, it's simply evidence that his lawyers were doing their job. But as we all know, perception is reality in politics -- and many people are likely to conclude that Hancock and his minions wouldn't have been worried about video of him at Denver Players-related spots if he'd never been there.
Hancock is seen in reports by both stations denying that he's ever used any escort service, echoing comments spokesman Evan Dreyer made to us last week. But if more evidence comes out on this topic -- and you can bet 7News, Fox31 and other media outlets are busily digging for it -- such claims of innocence might backfire on Hancock just as they did on penis-tweeting Representative Anthony Weiner, who's currently being peppered with calls to resign.
Could Hancock be headed down this path? Too soon to tell -- but it's hardly beyond the realm of possibility, especially now.
Update, 7:23 a.m. June 10: Just received a statement from the Hancock campaign in regard to the 7News report. I've e-mailed to ask if these assertions also pertain to the Fox31 story, which is not mentioned in the release; I'll update again upon receiving a reply. In the meantime, here's the Hancock take:
"KMGH aired a story tonight with several unsubstantiated and false claims.
"In the final days of the mayoral campaign, Michael Hancock was the subject of a desperate and deceptive attack intended to influence the election. Michael personally rejected the allegations to KMGH and other organizations and directed his campaign to cooperate fully with news organizations seeking information.
"At the request of two news organizations to dispel false rumors related to evidence, our attorney requested any evidence the Denver Police Department had.
"The response from the Denver Department of Safety, which KMGH received but chose not to air, was clear:
"There are no 'videotapes, photographs or any other evidence' held by the Denver Police Department of 'Michael Hancock entering or leaving 1675 Fillmore Street' or '(h)is vehicle at or near the address and/or photos of his license plate at that facility.'"
"Later that same day, in response to a subsequent media inquiry, and in a letter in the possession of KMGH, the Denver Department of Safety confirmed that there was no video, photography or other evidence of Michael Hancock present at any other location under surveillance.
"Despite those facts, KMGH used our request for information to air false rumors.
"We are disappointed KMGH chose to air such unsubstantiated claims."
See Fox31's report below.
More from our Follow That Story archive: "Brenda Stewart, who fronted prostiution ring linked to Michael Hancock, cops a plea."