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5/25/2001

Former Ramsey detective, Boulder fail to settle case; jury selection set

By B.J. Plasket
The Daily Times-Call

DENVER — Efforts to settle former Ramsey -case Detective Linda Arndt’s lawsuit against the city of Boulder have failed, and the case is now set to go to trial on Tuesday.

U.S. District Judge William Downes had given both sides until Thursday to hammer out a settlement in the case, but a federal court clerk late Thursday said the trial is on and a jury pool will be asked to appear Tuesday.

Arndt’s suit claims the police department violated her free-speech rights by not allowing her to respond to allegations that she botched the crime scene after the slaying of 6-year-old JonBenet Ramsey .

Arndt, the first detective on the scene of the Dec. 26, 1996, slaying, has been criticized for allegedly sending the girl’s father, John Ramsey , to look for her. Arndt also allegedly allowed the child’s body to be moved and allowed a blanket to be placed over her body, causing contam-

ination of evidence.

Boulder police have said Arndt’s problems were “of her own making” and have accused her of being paranoid.

In a deposition given prior to the trial, former Boulder police Chief Tom Koby said Arndt “became, and still is, quite frankly, very obsessed and paranoid about (the) case.”

Koby said at least two other detectives — Tom Wickman and Jon Eller — told him Arndt had made “obvious mistakes” in the case. Koby also criticized Arndt for allegedly disrupting a case meeting and “embarrassing” the police by talking to others during the meeting. Koby said Arndt’s actions also were criticized by the Boulder County District Attorney’s Office early in the investigation.

Downes earlier dismissed the portions of Arndt’s suit that claimed the department violated Colorado law by refusing to defend her or allowing her to defend herself.

The sole issue remaining in the suit is Arndt’s claim that the department violated her First Amendment free-speech rights.

The trial will also provide the first inside look at the infighting that plagued the early days of the investigation. Among the expected witnesses are Koby, current Boulder police Chief Mark Beckner and Wickman. Former detectives John Eller and Larry Mason also are expected to take the stand.

Mason quit — and later successfully sued — the department after Eller reportedly accused him of leaking information to the media. Eller quit the department soon after in what was reportedly a series of disagreements with then-District Attorney Alex Hunter and Assistant District Attorney Peter Hofstrom.

Arndt is seeking unspecified monetary damages and legal fees.

The trial is expected to last seven days.

B.J. Plasket can be reached at 303-776-2244, Ext. 451, or by e-mail at bplasket@times-call.com.