Mary Celeste, county judge, cited by Denver cops for leaving granddaughter in hot car
Update: The 18th Judicial District DA's office decided not to charge County Court Judge Mary Celeste with a state criminal law violation for leaving her six-year-old granddaughter alone in a car on a blazing hot day while she picked up olive oil and a movie at Sam's Club. However, she has been cited for a municipal violation -- although the mechanics of this development were misstated by both the Denver Post and 9News.
Both 9News and Post columnist Bill Johnson reported that Celeste had been cited by the Denver City Attorney's Office for violating Municipal Code 34-43, which pertains to wrongs against minors. But that's not quite right, according to Denver City Attorney David Broadwell.
"There was an error in both the Channel 9 report and Bill Johnson's column this morning," Broadwell notes. "The City Attorney's Office did not bring charges against the judge. A citation was issued by the Denver Police Department.
"This is the way it usually works in the world of municipal ordinance violations," he continues. "Without any consultation with us, the police will issue a citation to somebody for an ordinance violation. Then they turn it over to us to decide what to do with it -- and that's what's going on in this situation as well."
As Broadwell concedes, his office's evaluation of the citation is complicated by what he calls "a natural conflict with our relationship with the Denver County Court, and all the judges of the court we regularly appear before." As such, he adds, "we're probably going to get some outside assistance in our evaluation" -- meaning that an outside agency will have to weigh the facts of the case and determine if prosecution is justified.
Nothing's firm on what this agency will be. "We're still going through that evaluation even as we speak," Broadwell says.
Celeste's attorney says his client regrets her actions, which took place shortly after the death of her father. But he stresses that she locked the doors of the car, turned on the fan, and was only inside the store for a short time.
Look below for our earlier coverage.
Original item, 7:51 a.m. August 2: Mary Celeste.For most people, justice isn't usually swift. But for County Court Judge Mary Celeste, it's moved lickety-split -- and left her free and clear of the most serious counts she might have faced for leaving her young granddaughter alone in a hot car while she stopped to shop this past week. The 18th Judicial District Attorney's Office has decided she shouldn't be prosecuted on state charges.
As first reported by 9News, a customer at the Alameda and South Broadway Sam's Club saw a child, age six, left alone in a car. Given that the temperature that day topped out at over 90 degrees, the patron quickly alerted store personnel, who called 911 and then tried to get the child out of the vehicle -- but the doors were locked. Staffers were trying to figure out what to do next when Celeste arrived. She told Denver Police she'd stopped briefly to pick up olive oil and a movie.
Celeste's attorney, Gary Jackson, subsequently told 9News that the judge regrets her actions, but emphasized that the child was never in danger. He says Celeste locked the doors for her granddaughters' protection and left the fan on -- and implied she may not have been thinking as cogently as usual because her father had died the previous day.
The 18th Judicial District DA's office was appointed to serve as a special prosecutor in the case. Yesterday, the office declared that "after a complete and thorough review of the facts presented to us," decision-makers "determined that the conduct involved does not rise to the level of a state criminal law violation."
This doesn't mean Celeste's entirely off the hook. The Denver Police Department can still file municipal charges in the matter. Any guess as to how likely that might be?
Look below to see two 9News videos on the subject -- the statement by Celeste's attorney and the clip about the conclusion of the 18th Judicial District DA's office.
More from our Follow That Story archive: "Suzanne Williams: No indictment, 3 tickets in crash that killed pregnant Brianna Gomez."