The $6 Million Narc: What Trinidad Could Learn From Botched Texas Drug Stings

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This week's Westword cover story, "The Snitch Who Stole Christmas," examines the aftermath of a 2013 police investigation that led to the arrests of forty people in Trinidad for allegedly selling heroin, meth, and other drugs to two undercover informants. The cases were so riddled with legal and procedural problems -- having to do with lax police work, fake drugs and informants with multiple motives for staging buys that may not have happened -- that all of them were eventually thrown out of court, but not before several of the accused had lost jobs and suffered other damage from the operation.

See also: The Snitch Who Stole Christmas: How Trinidad's War on Drugs Attacked the Innocent

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The Snitch Who Stole Christmas: How Trinidad's War on Drugs Attacked the Innocent

Categories: News, Politics

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Danika Gonzales was driving to work when she saw the police car in her rearview mirror, swooping down on her. She couldn't think of any moving violation she'd committed, but she quickly pulled over, figuring she was about to get a lecture for not wearing her seat belt.

Except for her college years, Gonzales had lived in Trinidad all of her life. She was 38 years old and had worked for the past seven years as a probation officer for the state courts, so she knew many of the members of the Trinidad Police Department -- including the woman who got out of the patrol car, Officer Lauren Riddle. Gonzales asked her what was going on. Riddle informed her that she was being arrested for selling heroin and methamphetamine.

"I thought she was joking," Gonzales recalls. "I kept telling her, 'You're kidding.' Finally, she got upset with me and said, 'I'm not kidding. Get out of the car.'"

See also: Bloody Ludlow -- Long Buried in Myth and Neglect, the Story of Colorado's Deadly Coal War Is Worth Remembering


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Denver Showed It Had the Light Stuff a Century Ago, With the First Christmas Tree

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This has been a tough year for Colorado history, with the state marking the 150th anniversary of the Sand Creek Massacre on November 29 and the hundredth anniversary of the Ludlow Massacre back in April. But not all anniversaries are dark: A century ago, Denver was the first spot in the world to feature outdoor Christmas lights. Or so the story goes -- and this is just the time of year for prettily tied-up tales.

See also: Nativity Scene Protests Are a Denver Tradition -- Jesus, Mary and Joseph!

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Roan Plateau Compromise Hailed as "The Colorado Way"

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Six years after the drill-baby-drill crusaders of the Bush administration targeted one of Colorado's most ecologically unique places for widespread energy leases, a surprisingly reasonable compromise has been hammered out over the fate of the Roan Plateau. The deal is being praised by state and federal officials as well as environmental and sportsmen groups -- and at least tolerated by oil-and-gas interests as a viable alternative to what had become a protracted and seemingly hopeless legal deadlock.

The lesson here? Fiats from Washington that fail to take into account community concerns about long-term economic and environmental impacts are bound to breed lawsuits and impasse. It takes some local buy-in to get to what Governor John Hickenlooper describes as "a productive path forward.... It really is the Colorado way."

See also: Roan Plateau Rethinking: Drilling Delay Prompts Pouting, Applause

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Transgender Day of Remembrance Event Aims to Stop the Violence

Categories: Politics

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Courtesy of CAVP
Colorado Anti-Violence Program and TransAction are co-hosting the Colorado Transgender Day of Remembrance.
In June, Eleanor Dewey learned about the murder of Zoraida Reyes. For many, Reyes was a statistic, just another name on a growing list of transgender women killed in the United States -- at least eleven in 2014. But Dewey remembers Reyes as a friend, a fierce immigrant-rights organizer who had volunteered at the Denver-based organization Rights for All People and worked on the Undocuqueer campaign in California.

See also: Queer Undocumented Artist Julio Salgado Speaks Out

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Pinon Canyon: Army Slates Public Comment on Ramp-Up at Not-So-Public Time and Place

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The PiƱon Canyon region contains one of the richest deposits of prehistoric sites in the West. Coming soon: Explosions.
After years of battling the Pentagon's plans to expand the 367-square-mile Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site, ranchers and other residents of southeastern Colorado thought they'd finally achieved peace with honor last fall, when a top Army official formally announced that the military was abandoning any land acquisition plans for PCMS. But the latest proposal for increased use of the site in training Fort Carson troops -- an intense ramp-up of operations, heavy on the use of electronic warfare technologies, lasers, explosives, drones, restrictions on public air space, and more -- doesn't strike the expansion opponents as too neighborly.

See also: Leaked Documents Show Army's Bold Plan to Acquire 10,000 Square Miles of Colorado

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"Please, I Want to Die:" Charles Selsberg to Inspire Death With Dignity Bill

Categories: News, Politics

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The late Charles Selsberg. Additional photos below.
Colorado doesn't have a death-with-dignity law intended to allow the terminally ill to end their lives. However, a bill on that topic will reportedly be pushed during the upcoming legislative session, inspired by the plight of Charles Selsberg, who lobbied for such a change in "Please, I Want to Die," an op-ed published shortly before he passed away following a long and agonizing battle with ALS.

See also: Fetuses-Aren't-People Lawsuit: Bishops to Review Catholic Hospital's Argument

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New Parole Unit Logs Massive Overtime in First Year

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In the year following the 2013 murder of state prison chief Tom Clements by a parole absconder, parole officers working for the Colorado Department of Corrections put in for an unprecedented 8,858 hours of overtime pay -- and nearly a third of that overtime was logged by one small, elite team created in the wake of Clements's death to track down fugitives.

Averaged for the hundreds of employees in the parole division, the overtime amounts to about 30 hours per officer. But the 2,741 hours claimed by the ten-member Fugitive Apprehension Unit during its first full year of operation works out to ten times that much overtime per officer. (Only nine members of the unit are actually eligible for overtime.)

See also: Why Did Colorado Shut Down Its Most Successful Parole Program?

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Meet Gordon Klingenschmitt, Exorcism-Doing, Gay-Slamming, Just-Elected State Rep

Categories: Politics, Videos

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A screen capture of Gordon Klingenschmitt. Several videos and more below.
Republicans' domination in the recent midterm -- John Hickenlooper's squeaker of a reelection win was among the few Democratic bright spots -- extended to the Colorado State Senate, which will now be under GOP control owing to a vote count not formally announced until days after the election. And while the Dems retained control of the House, that chamber is sure to be a livelier place owing to the victory of Gordon Klingenschmitt, a former Navy chaplain whose skill set includes exorcisms and claims that Jared Polis wants to behead Christians. Really. Learn more about him below.

See also: Colorado Becoming "the Worst Possible Hellhole on Planet Earth," Radio Preachers Say

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Video: Save Browns Canyon Campaign Launches With Civic Center Light Show

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A gun-and-reel crowd turned out for a light show on the facade of the McNichols Building.
Between Buena Vista and Salida, the Arkansas River sweeps through Browns Canyon, an area of granite cliffs and rugged backcountry that's popular with elk, bighorn sheep, mountain lions and black bears -- not to mention hunters, anglers, rafters, hikers and campers. But this quintessential slice of Colorado wilderness is also attracting increasing interest from mining companies, and that's prompted a sportsmen's group to embark on an unusual campaign, featuring billboards and a recent flashy light show downtown, to get Browns Canyon designated as a national monument.

See also: Water Wars: Deal Reached on Upper Colorado Diversion Project

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