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Back to 2000 Headlines

3/23/2000

Owens not in on deal between Hunter, Smit

by B.J.Plasket
Daily Times-Call

BOULDER While deciding last fall not to appoint a special prosecutor in the JonBenet Ramsey case, Gov. Bill Owens was apparently unaware of a secret agreement in which prosecutors agreed to give up evidence to a former detective who now works for the Ramsey family.

While Owens and his team interviewed police and prosecutors and were made privy to most of the evidence in the case, a source close to the situation told the Daily Times-Call the governor was never told about an agreement under which former investigator Lou Smit was given total control of photographs, a crime-scene video and other information contained on a compact disc.

The agreement between Smit and District Attorney Alex Hunter was made under seal in March 1999, only months after Smit left the case and only weeks after Hunter filed a motion demanding the return of all material gathered by Smit during his 18 months as a special investigator.

Most of the information given to Smit was contained on the disc, which Smit admitted preparing with the help of a former associate in the El Paso County Sheriff's Department.

Hunter, in the sealed motion, told the court Smit's sharing of the information with an outsider was inappropriate and demanded Smit return the materials and destroy all copies.

Hunter quickly reversed his field, however, and in late March 1999 signed an agreement allowing Smit to share any case information with anyone he chose after Oct. 1, 1999.

That agreement was unsealed early this month.

Owens, through spokesman Dick Wadhams, refused to comment on the Smit information.

"The governor is not answering follow-up questions to his comments earlier this week," Wadhams said.

Owens this week got into a public exchange with John and Patsy Ramsey over the level of their cooperation in the investigation into their daughter's death. Owens also criticized Barbara Walters' interview with the Ramseys , which was broadcast by ABC-TV last Friday.

Assistant District Attorney Bill Wise on Wednesday said although he was not involved in last fall's meetings with Owens and his staff, he assumed the Smit agreement was not conveyed to the governor.

"I'm going to doubt it was brought up," he said. "It was not important within that context."

Hunter, meanwhile, has refused to comment on the agreement, which was reached shortly after Smit's lawyers brought up allegations that Hunter himself had leaked sensitive case information and had attempted to conspire with tabloid reporter Jeff Shapiro and others to discredit former Boulder Detective John Eller.

Wise on Wednesday said he has "no worries" about Smit misusing the information he took with him from the investigation.

"I have a lot of respect for Lou," Wise said.

Hunter arrived back in Boulder early Wednesday after attending a conference in Connecticut along with Henry Lee, the forensic scientist who heads Connecticut's state crime lab and who is also working on the Ramsey case.

Wise said Hunter usually "talks in generalities" with Lee about the Ramsey case at such conferences.

Wise said he has no knowledge of a meeting between Lee, Hunter and Ramsey prosecutor Michael Kane that will reportedly take place in Boulder, perhaps as soon as this week.

Boulder Police Chief Mark Beckner earlier this week acknowledged the FBI is still conducting tests on crime-scene evidence.

A source inside the investigation this week said the Colorado Bureau of Investigation "screwed up" tests on some evidence and that the evidence is being re-tested. It is unknown if that evidence is the same being examined by the FBI.

Funding for the Ramsey investigation including money to pay Kane's part-time salary while he practices law in Pennsylvania could run out as soon as the end of this month.