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Officer claims she was made scapegoat

By B.J. Plasket
Daily Times-Call

BOULDER -- A second former Ramsey investigator has filed notice that she intends to sue Boulder Police Chief Tom Koby -- claiming he failed to defend her against allegations of incompetence and allowed her to become a scapegoat.

Linda Arndt -- the first detective on the scene when JonBenet Ramsey was reported kidnapped from her parents' home in December 1996 -- accuses Koby of ordering her not to defend herself under threat of being fired.

Arndt's notice, sent to Koby and city officials this week, claims Koby -- despite repeated requests by Arndt -- refused to defend her from what the notice called false and derogatory statements made about her in the media.

Arndt now becomes the second officer to sue the department over the Ramsey probe.

The City of Boulder in late 1997 paid detective Larry Mason $10,000 to settle a claim that former Ramsey case Commander John Eller falsely blamed him for media leaks early in the probe.

Mason was removed from the Ramsey case in January 1997. Arndt's notice claims she was also removed from the case and ``assigned to a position of significantly less responsibility and stature.''

According to the notice, Arndt is seeking $150,000 in damages.

The notice claims Arndt had to take a medical leave of absence in the summer of 1997 ``to deal with the physical exhaustion and strain'' caused by the situation. It also claims she was forced to undergo extensive psychological examination before returning to work and that she currently is in ``a nearly intolerable work environment.''

Arndt claims Koby does not allow his officers to speak to the media and has threatened them with discipline or termination if they speak to reporters. Arndt's claim calls that a violation of her First Amendment right to free speech.

The notice claims Arndt has been wrongfully blamed by the media for the following mistakes on the first day of the JonBenet Ramsey murder investigation:

* Covering JonBenet's unclothed body with a sheet, disturbing physical evidence on the form of body fluid.

* Failing to collect a flashlight and a hammer from the scene, allowing them to be lost.

* Destroying other unspecified evidence.

* Giving a copy of the ransom note to the Ramseys .

* Hacking into the police department's computer files.

* Refusing to allow the FBI into the Ramsey home.

* Taking the medical leave because of ``guilt over her role in bungling the Ramsey investigation.''

The notice says those allegations are false and that Koby knows they are false. It alleges that Eller also refused to ``stand behind her.''

Koby, who has clashed with the media, the district attorney's office and his own department during the investigation, has said he will leave his job by the end of the year. He was also the subject last year of a no-confidence vote by Boulder officers.

Boulder city attorneys did not return calls this morning seeking comment on Arndt's notice.