DENVER — The Colorado Bureau of Investigation asked the FBI to join the probe into an attack ad aired by GOP gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez after state agents determined information in the ad came from a confidential federal database, officials said Wednesday.
The information came from the National Crime Information Center, a federal database available only to law enforcement officials, CBI Director Robert Cantwell said.
“Because this is a federally controlled and regulated system, CBI has requested the assistance of the FBI to further pursue the investigation,” Cantwell said. “The FBI and CBI will be working jointly to complete the investigation.”
Use of the federal criminal database for any purpose other than law enforcement is a crime punishable by fines and up to a year in prison.
The ad says that when the Democratic candidate for governor, Bill Ritter, was the district attorney for Denver, he agreed to a plea bargain with a suspected illegal immigrant and that the suspect was not deported. The suspect was later arrested in California on suspicion of sexually assaulting a minor, the ad says.
Ritter’s campaign had suggested earlier the information came from confidential federal records and demanded that Beauprez explain how it was obtained.
“If calling in the FBI will bring a quicker resolution, fantastic,” Ritter spokesman Evan Dreyer said Wednesday. “Right now we’re getting zero accountability from (Beauprez).”
The Beauprez campaign has said the information came from an informant and has refused to identify the source.
The FBI’s involvement “doesn’t change anything for us,” Beauprez spokesman John Marshall said. “We’re going to fully cooperate with whomever we need to cooperate with.”
Gov. Bill Owens has asked the CBI to expedite the investigation. Lance Clem, spokesman for the state Department of Public Safety, which oversees the CBI, said the investigation may take a week or more.
In a debate on KOA-AM radio in Denver earlier Wednesday, Ritter demanded that Beauprez disclose how he got the information, saying Beauprez has promised to be accountable for his actions.
“If you’re going to talk about accountability ... but you’re utilizing information that can only be obtained illegally, we need to know what your source is,” Ritter said.
Beauprez responded that Ritter was trying to dodge questions about why he plea-bargained with the defendant mentioned in the ad.
“I think, in fact I know, that the information we’ve got is absolutely, indisputably true. I understand why Bill wants to change this subject. He doesn’t want people to know who he put back on the streets, that he put a heroin trafficker back on the street who a short time later assaulted, sexually assaulted, abused, whatever the legal term is ... a young, teenage child in California,” Beauprez said.
Beauprez, who represents Colorado’s 7th Congressional District in the north Denver area, and Ritter are vying to replace Owens, a Republican who cannot run again because of term limits.
The ad refers to a suspect arrested in Denver in 2001 on suspicion of heroin trafficking and later in California on suspicion of sexual assault.
Reporters found that the person arrested in Colorado was listed under a different name and date of birth than the man arrested in California, according to the Ritter campaign. When questioned, the Beauprez campaign said it was the same person because federal criminal databases carried the same FBI numbers in both cases.
Dreyer said the Ritter campaign tried verifying that information through public records but could not, raising the possibility that the databases were illegally accessed.