In Colorado and nationwide, there is little sympathy these days for those who make threats of violence against authorities or private organizations. If anything, such events are treated with far more prosecutorial concern than may have previously been the case. In the current atmosphere of gun violence and domestic terrorism, people tend to forget or even to dishonor a very basic tenet of our criminal justice system: every accused person must be provided with a vigorous criminal defense and a fair and impartial trial.
In that connection, the arrest of a 54-year-old woman in Fountain may be a good example of how in such times the near-commission of a crime may be treated as an indictable offense even though it may fall short of the mark. Police arrested the woman for allegedly calling the Denver office of Planned Parenthood and making threats over the phone. She is accused of stating to the Planned Parenthood representative that she was tempted to walk into a Republican Party meeting with her dead husband’s gun and just start shooting people.
Perhaps in more relaxed times such talk might be seen as nothing more than a person’s nonsensical frustration at the way politics works in the country. However, the woman’s call came shortly after a man killed three and wounded several others in an attack on a Planned Parenthood office in Colorado Springs. It was thus the ultimate example of poor timing.
Police searched her apartment and found ammunition for a handgun but no weapon. They arrested her for menacing despite the fact that there is an irrational connection in calling Planned Parenthood to make a threat against the Republican Party. Consequently, criminal defense counsel may be able to argue that the woman was not menacing toward Planned Parenthood because the alleged threatening language was toward another entity. She also did not menace the Republican Party, which she never contacted. Furthermore, the woman’s expression of being “tempted” to do something violent is not the same as a direct threat, making the charges arguably tenuous under the facts and under the criminal laws of Colorado.