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Back to 1999 Headlines

2/18/1999

Bombshell in Ramsey book

By B.J. Plasket
Daily Times-Call

BOULDER -- A much-discussed book on the JonBenet Ramsey murder probe contains copies of private internal memos from within District Attorney Alex Hunter's office, it has been learned.

The book, ``Perfect Murder, Perfect Town,'' will hit the shelves as soon as bookstores open this morning, but portions continued to leak out on Wednesday.

Additional portions of Lawrence Schiller's book appeared in Denver-area newspapers on Wednesday. The Denver Rocky Mountain News and Newsweek also printed excerpts this week.

With publication of the book slated for today, the Boulder County Justice Center was as quiet as the eye of a hurricane on Wednesday.

But an ill wind was still blowing inside the building as Hunter's staff tried to figure out how Schiller obtained internal memos from an investigation that has been locked in secrecy since its start.

``They're crying about it over there,'' one source said.

But they weren't crying publicly. Hunter's spokeswoman, Suzanne Laurion, said her boss would have no comment surrounding the book.

Laurion said the DA's office had received 10 media inquiries by mid-afternoon Wednesday, a figure she called ``not abnormally high.''

Sources said some of the leaked memos were documents sent to Hunter by Laurion.

One analyst, however, said the leaked memos could mean legal trouble for anyone who took them or gave them away. He said the theft of such criminal justice documents is a misdemeanor crime punishable by 90 days in jail and a $100 fine.

But, if the culprit is a lawyer, the ramifications would be ``huge,'' former prosecutor and Channel 7 legal analyst Craig Silverman said, adding that a lawyer would face serious ethical charges if caught taking or giving documents such as the memos in the book.

Silverman called the acquisition of the memos ``a terrible breach of security.''

Bruce Henderson, an electronic media expert at the University of Colorado School of Journalism, said he doesn't know how the documents could be taken, or ``hacked'' from the DA's computer system.

``I would have to know more about the specific system they use there,'' he said.

Silverman also said Hunter -- accused in Schiller's book of enlisting the help of reporters in discrediting former detective John Eller -- could be forced off the case if those allegations are true. ``It would put him in a conflict-of-interest position,'' Silverman said.

Boulder police, according to the book, taped a conversation with Globe reporter Jeff Shapiro in which he reportedly told them he had been enlisted by Hunter. The book says the officers gave the tape to then-Chief Tom Koby, who played it for a speechless Hunter.

``Once they had the tape, (Hunter) may have been in a conflict of interest,'' Silverman said. ``He may have been at their mercy.''

Silverman said prosecutors, in the face of such improprieties, are ``duty bound to withdraw from a case because of conflict of interest or the appearance of a conflict.''

He said if Hunter is removed from the case, his entire office would also be forced off, as would metro-area DAs such as Adams County's Bob Grant and Denver's Bill Ritter. Both serve as consultants in the case.

Silverman also expressed concern over the DA's relationship with the Globe, the tabloid paper for which Shapiro works. He said the paper was caught ``red-handed paying for stolen photos'' in a case in which JonBenet's autopsy pictures were stolen from a local processing lab. The Globe was not prosecuted.

``Then the Globe reportedly ends up helping the DA,'' Silverman said. ``That certainly gives the impression of a conflict of interest.''

Gov. Bill Owens, meanwhile, has said he will not consider stepping in on the case until a grand jury completes an investigation that began in September.

If Owens were to remove the case from Boulder officials, it would be given to the Colorado attorney general, Silverman said.