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Laurion works in DA's

By B.J. Plasket
Daily Times-Call

BOULDER -- These days District Attorney Alex Hunter doesn't give interviews.

He doesn't return phone calls.

And the Ramsey case continues to operate under near-total secrecy.

That secrecy has stirred angst -- and legal action to open sealed public records -- among some journalists.

But CU journalism professor Suzanne Laurion is not one of the malcontents.

For over a year Laurion has drawn a paycheck from the CU journalism department and $17 an hour from the DA's office, where her part-time job includes keeping those journalists away from Hunter.

There is even a telephone line into Hunter's office that only she knows.

But the former radio and TV journalist with a Ph.D. doesn't see a conflict in her dual roles as a journalism teacher and a press officer for the DA.

``I am feeling good about my work,'' Laurion said, adding that she is honored to work for Hunter.

And, in spite of her journalistic training, she's not upset about the secrecy surrounding what is currently America's most famous unsolved murder case.

``That's not my role -- to argue about secrecy,'' she said. ``I'm here to help balance the public's right to know with the prosecutors' need for secrecy.''

And she denies helping law enforcement officials keep their secrets.

``There's just a lot of information we cannot reveal,'' she said, adding ``The media gets what answers we can give.''

Laurion said there was nary an eyebrow raised in the CU journalism school when she went to work for Hunter while still teaching. She said neither her colleagues nor her students questioned her dual role.

She deflects accusations that she is helping Hunter hide from the public as ``ludicrous.''

``He has had to necessarily dedicate a lot of time and effort to this case, and I'm hopefully helping him do that,'' she said.

Laurion claims Hunter is not hiding, citing his two brief appearances with reporters this summer as evidence he has not abandoned the public.

But, according to Laurion, the secrecy is going to get worse.

``If the case goes to a grand jury, we won't have anything to say,'' she said. ``It is all secret.''

If there are ethical questions lingering about Laurion's roles, they may go away at some point, since her employment with CU is renewed on a temporary basis each semester.

Her future at the DA's office may also be up in the air. She admits she won't have much to do if the case goes to the grand jury, and doesn't know how long Hunter will need her services if or when the case is finished.

Currently, her position is funded only through this year, but the county commissioners have yet to turn Hunter down when he has requested extra staff for the Ramsey case.