Allegations in recall said to be false

Bonnie Roesink, 14th Judicial District Attorney, defended her prosecutorial record Tuesday, countering criticisms alleged by opponents trying to oust her from public office.

She said allegations made in a recall petition circulating Moffat, Routt and Grand counties are false. Her public comments come eight days into a recall effort spearheaded by Craig resident Kathy Oberwitte.

"None of them are true," Roesink said.

The petition alleges numerous complaints against Roesink, including being the cause of high employee turnover, plea bargaining too many cases and violating the Colorado Victims Rights Act.

She said the number of cases plea bargained in the 14th Judicial District falls in line with state and national averages.

"It's a fact of life -- you can only take so many to trial," she said.

The district attorney said her office has been tough on methamphetamine dealers, contradicting a belief held by some that prosecutors are soft on offenders.

"(Meth distributors) should be sent to prison for the longest possible sentence," Roesink said, of her philosophy.

Getting tough on meth offenders, including securing prison sentences for about 25 percent, led to a significant reduction in crime from 2005 to 2006, she said.

"The word got out there," she said.

Roesink said the launch of a drug court -- a program giving meth offenders a choice between jail and monitoring/treatment programs -- will further reduce the influence of methamphetamine on the community. The drug court could be installed by the spring, she said.

"Nationally, that's been the most successful thing," Roesink said. "Just sending them to prison doesn't work. You have to deal with the addiction."

As for the allegation she violated the Victim's Rights Act, Roesink said the numbers argue against it. In the last four years, her office has received one state complaint alleging a violation; that period spans the course of 20,000 to 30,000 cases, Roesink said.

"This one offends me very much," she said. "To say that ... is patently wrong. We work very hard to protect victims."

Roesink also denied allegations that she micromanages the district attorney's office, is unethical and has misappropriated taxpayer funds.

In the end, Roesink believes the recall effort comes back to the prosecution of Dustin Lund, a Morrison resident who was the second driver in a February 2006 vehicle accident that claimed the life of Craig resident Michael Bailey. Oberwitte is the sister of the late Bailey.

Lund, who reportedly tested positive for methamphetamine use, was charged with misdemeanor careless driving resulting in death, a charge that carries a maximum one-year penalty.

Roesink's colleagues came to her defense this week regarding her decision in the Lund case (see related story, page 11), which they deemed legally and ethically correct.

Roesink said she didn't reach the Lund decision easily.

"I knew when I made the decision I made that it was very possible there would be a recall," she said. "I spent many sleepless nights knowing a recall could happen versus doing the right thing."

After considering the case, she sided on doing what the law requires -- prosecuting only that which she believed could be proved.

"I know in my heart I made the right decision," she said.

Still, the district attorney said, her sympathies lie with Bailey's family.

"I have very great sympathy for the whole family of Michael Bailey," Roesink said. "I think it's a tragedy."

Roesink said she respected the rights of voters to express their wishes through the recall, and that she'll accept whatever decision they reach.

"I think people should think about why it's appropriate to recall someone," she said. "There needs to be a valid reason."

But, Roesink said, "I will not be bitter. I'm a public servant, and I serve at the pleasure of the public."

Roesink was appointed district attorney in February 2003. She won an uncontested re-election bid in 2005. Before serving as district attorney, she worked for 16 years as a deputy district attorney in the 14th district.

Joshua Roberts can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 210, or jroberts@craigdailypress.com.

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