Dave Kopel Defends Ken Buck in U.S. Attorney Flap

Senate hopeful Jane Norton’s vicious attacks on GOP rival Ken Buck regarding Buck’s service in the U.S. Attorney’s office may deeply hurt Norton’s campaign, as I have already indicated. The problem is that Norton is attacking Buck for standing up against a political railroading in a gun case.

Yesterday (June 28) Buck fired back. Here’s what Buck has to say in his defense:

The facts presented in the Denver Post story [here] on June 24th speak for themselves. Ten years ago Assistant U. S. Attorney Ken Buck got caught in the crosshairs of a politically ambitious democrat, Tom Strickland, who became U.S. Attorney in between two unsuccessful runs for the U.S. Senate.

Coming to the office on the heels of the Columbine tragedy, Strickland set out to build a “tough on guns” reputation as U.S. Attorney. As a result, he wanted to go to trial against an Aurora gun dealer even though his democrat predecessor and the senior attorneys in the office would not go to trial because they felt the government could not get a felony conviction.

Ken was among that group. He let it be known that he felt the case could be settled without a trial. He thought justice would be served without an expensive trial. That view put him in the cross hairs of Strickland.

The Denver Post story describes the details of what happened as a result. In the process of urging the parties to plead the case out instead of going to trial, Ken made an unintentional error and U.S. Attorney Tom Strickland went on a crusade to make Ken pay for the mistake.

Strickland charged ahead with the felony prosecution. The case finally ended up about the way Ken Buck had predicted. Instead of multiple felony convictions the government ended up with a single minor paperwork misdemeanor conviction requiring one day of probation.

After Strickland left the U.S. Attorneys office to again run unsuccessfully for the U. S. Senate his successor, John Suthers, was charged with closing the file.

So one-and-a-half years after the fact, Ken received a reprimand from Suthers, who was careful to point out that Ken’s “conduct was not intentional.” He called it, “an aberration in your professional career.”

But don’t take Buck’s word for it. Dave Kopel, the lead researcher at the Independence Institute and a world renowned Second Amendment scholar, has spoken up for Buck on Colorado Public Television. Here are Kopel’s statements:

I think if [the issue] does stick to Buck, he will win the Republican primary and the general election. This is a real gut check for character on the part of Ken Buck, and of Jane Norton, and it strongly shows better character on Buck’s part. The victim of the United States Attorney [Tom] Strickland’s persecution that the Buck case grows out of is Greg Golyansky. He’s been a friend of mine for fifteen years; we’re still on the board of directors of the Colorado Union of Taxpayers together.* So I know a lot about this case.

Greg was a pawn dealer. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms brought a case against him. The U.S. Attorney office declined to prosecute. Henry Solano, the Clinton-appointed United States Attorney, agreed with that, said there’s nothing here. Indeed, the only witness against him (Golyansky) was a mentally ill homeless drug addict with severe credibility problems.

And then Tom Strickland comes in on the theory that “I’m going to be the big tough U.S. Attorney and prosecute gun cases.” And he takes a case that not one single career attorney in the United States Attorney’s office in Colorado was willing to prosecute, so he brings in two of his little hand-picked minions who came in with him to bring felony charges against three people.

It was an outrageous abuse of power.

Now Ken Buck violated the protocol by talking about it outside the office. And I agree that was a violation of the U.S. Attorney’s protocol.

But when you say, when is a guy going to make a mistake, I like a guy who makes a mistake on behalf of someone who was being unfairly, unjustly, and politically persecuted.

And then for Jane Norton to turn around and say this is some terrible issue against Ken Buck — well, it just reminds me that Jane Norton’s husband was the guy who before Strickland came into office, probably had the worst record in Colorado history of being an abusive, out-of-control, way over the line, United States Attorney, Mike Norton.

You know, and for somebody who cares about Second Amendment issues, you’ve got on one hand, a guy who said something out of the office he shouldn’t have, in defense of a gun dealer who was being inappropriately prosecuted, and on the other side, you’ve got somebody who’s basically saying how swell the prosecution was, and criticizing the guy who properly stood up for the innocent victim of persecution. …

[Buck] got a letter of reprimand, and he made a mistake. But you say, when somebody makes a mistake, what was behind it. Was he trying to take unfair advantage of an innocent person, or was he standing up for the innocent person. And I think that’s a good sign. Especially with prosecutors, who usually have so much unbounded power, that a guy, when he made what may be the only professional error of his life, made it on the side of due process and fairness.

Westword’s Patricia Calhoun also shares skepticism toward Norton’s attack:

As the Post piece reveals, the case had major flaws — and none of the senior attorneys on the staff wanted to prosecute it. Still, Buck was the one who talked to the other side, earning a rebuke and an ethics class assignment. And ultimately, he left the U.S. Attorney’s Office, returning to public life a few years later for a run in Weld County.

But in this election season, when mavericks are looking mainstream and going rogue looks like a winning direction, Buck’s move may wind up winning points — particularly among Second Amendment-loving Republicans — and coming back to slap Norton.**

This election was Jane Norton’s to lose. And she may have just lost it.

* As noted in the linked piece, I also know Golyansky.
** Buck cited both Kopel and Calhoun in his own own piece.



leaningbuck June 30, 2010 at 11:11 AM

This episode just shows Ken’s basic decency. He is the opposite of the stereotypical crazed power mad cop– he seems balanced and tuned in to the law. For Norton to attack him for his professionalism, trying to twist it into corruption, well she has a tin ear for what regular voters are thinking. I haven’t noticed Ken taking any low blows.

kivey105 June 30, 2010 at 9:41 PM

Another important element in this for me is that Ken stood up & took his lumps. He could have resigned before the ethics hearing but he didn’t. He accepted the ruling and only then resigned. It takes a strong person, with the strength of their convictions to do this. this type of man is who I want as my Senator.

Anonymous July 1, 2010 at 12:16 PM

It should be noted that yesterday, Ken Buck indicted the dirty cop in the Fort Collins Tim Masters case. I appreciate Ken seeking justice for a man who gave ten years of his life because of a dirty cop’s lies.

Office Pro July 3, 2010 at 11:53 AM

Ken is a fine, honest individual who has the personal integrity to say what he means and mean what he says. I worked with Ken on a campaign in Greeley. He was constantly attacked by the liberal Greeley Tribune but always stuck to his principles and never swayed. He will do the same in the Senate; that’s why he has MY vote.

Anonymous August 5, 2010 at 11:32 PM
For full story see this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KEx6MBSOTsQ

Gregory Golyansky.