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Former Boulder detective’s petition against police chiefs, city set for court

By B.J. Plasket
The Daily Times-Call

DENVER — A series of behind-the-scenes controversies that marked the first two years of the JonBenet Ramsey murder investigation will unfold publicly in May when a former Boulder detective’s lawsuit against her former bosses goes to trial in federal court.

Linda Arndt — the first detective on the scene of the Dec. 26, 1996, slaying — filed the suit against current Boulder police Chief Mark Beckner, former Chief Tom Koby and the city of Boulder in 1998. She resigned from the force in 1999.

The suit claims Koby, Beckner and the department made Arndt the scapegoat for mistakes made by police early in the investigation, refused to defend her when the mistakes were revealed and violated her free-speech rights by prohibiting her from defending herself.

The city and police department in their written answer to the suit blamed Arndt for her problems, saying her damages “were incurred as a result of her own

actions.” She is seeking unspecified monetary damages.

U.S. District Judge William Downes has set the seven-day trial for May 29. He set May 23 as the deadline for a settlement in the case.

The witness list submitted by Arndt’s lawyers reads like a who’s who of the Ramsey investigation. It includes both Koby and Beckner, as well as a therapist and a doctor who have treated Arndt for the emotional problems she claims were caused by the department’s treatment of her.

Other potential witnesses listed by Arndt include former Detective John Eller, who quit the department after being removed from the case, and former Detective Steve Thomas, who left the department after a series of disputes with then-District Attorney Alex Hunter. Also on the list is former Detective Larry Mason, who resigned and filed a suit similar to Arndt’s. He was later paid a $10,000 settlement.

Mason’s wife, CeAnne Mason, is listed as a possible witness, as are former Boulder Mayor Leslie Durgin and former city spokeswoman Leslie Aaholm.

Arndt’s attorneys also submitted a list of more than 100 exhibits they plan to introduce at the trial — including dozens of newspaper articles and TV news tapes and a tape of a Boulder City Council meeting.

Lawyers for the city are arguing against the admission of virtually all of Arndt’s exhibits on the grounds they are based on hearsay and are irrelevant.

Arndt’s lawyers, according to court documents, also plan to introduce a performance evaluation written by her supervisor, Detective Tom Wickman, less than two months after the murder . They also plan to introduce the police department’s Internal Affairs Division files on both Mason and Eller.

Arndt’s exhibit list also includes a letter written to Hunter by a member of her family, as well as Hunter’s return letter. The nature of the letters was not disclosed.

Neither Hunter nor any employees of the district attorney’s office are named in the witness list.