BOULDER — Democratic candidates for Boulder County district attorney outlined their platforms before a crowd of female party loyalists Wednesday, and the occasion elicited barbs between two of the three hopefuls.
The Democratic Women of Boulder County luncheon at Boulder Flatirons Golf Course country club — part of a regular series of election year discussions held by the group — featured the first public exchange between sex crimes prosecutor Mary Keenan and private attorney Ben Thompson.
Candidate Trip DeMuth, a violent crimes prosecutor, stuck to detailing his platform despite being included in Thompson's criticism of the system cultivated by outgoing incumbent Alex Hunter who has held the office for nearly 28 years.
Thompson followed DeMuth and Keenan in taking turns introducing themselves and outlining their platforms.
Thompson centered on a collection of statistics he said he amassed from his own research, from past speeches given by Keenan and co-worker Pete Hoftstrom and from information that will reportedly be detailed in a book to be released next week by the Boulder police's former JonBenet Ramsey lead detective Steve Thomas.
Calling the district attorney's office the worst at plea bargaining violent crimes in the country, Thompson asserted that only five of 57 homicides recorded in Boulder County between 1989 and 1998 resulted in trials and that only one person accused of sexually abusing a child during that time went to jail.
"Everybody keeps telling me we need to change, we need to clean house. It's not going to be solved by an insider. It needs an outsider," Thompson said. "If you elect one of these two people, nothing will happen."
Keenan blasted Thompson's statistics as "tall tales from a tall man" and said neither she nor Hofstrom have given those numbers in speeches.
"I have kept records for nine years. People can see them if they want," Keenan said. "These numbers are patently false and the number one quality in a district attorney should be honesty."
Keenan agreed changes are needed in the district attorneys office, but likened how she would make changes to how Boulder Police Chief Mark Beckner made changes in his department after Ramsey case controversies consumed his predecessor's job and exposed weaknesses in the force — quietly and effectively.
After saying the Ramsey murder case represented all that was wrong with Hunter's office — especially how bad relations between prosecutors and police are — Thompson suggested Keenan's changes would be too little too late.
"Chief Beckner has done a wonderful job. The DA's office has done nothing," Thompson retorted.
DeMuth, the prosecutor Hunter assigned to the Ramsey murder case prior to a special prosecutor and grand jury being brought in, vowed to continue his silence about the case.
Learning from the shortfalls of the Ramsey case was more important, he said, and used the issue to promote his central platform plank that prosecutors need to help police to better understand what is expected to have cases ready for court.
"Today we take a case from police and react to it. We need to be there with them before the crime occurs," DeMuth said, adding later: "What are we doing today to prepare ourselves? We can learn from the past, but we need to prepare for the future."