H. Michael Steinberg has over 32 years experience practicing Colorado criminal law. Mr. Steinberg strives to stay current with the ever changing aspects of criminal law issues and updates resulting in his extensive knowledge of successful criminal defense as well as appellate work. He is also an active member of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar Association, the Colorado Trial Lawyer's Association, and the Colorado and Arapahoe Bar Associations.
Published on:

Colorado District Attorney Has Exposure for Overstepping Her Power and Authority

A Weld County Colorado prosecutor will face a civil lawsuit for money damages as a result of abusing her power in the prosecution of a college student for publishing a column know as the “Howling Pig”.

Deputy District Attorney Susan Knox violated Thomas Mink’s constitutional rights in 2003 when the DA approved a search warrant Minks Greeley, Colorado home where Mink lived with his mother.

“Ms. Knox violated Mr. Finks’ Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures,” said well known and respected Judge Lewis Babcock in his 11 page opinion.

Mink, an English major at the University of Northern Colorado, published the newsletter and website in one of the finest traditions of the First Amendment. Mink’s crime? poking fun at a college finance professor.

In his dismissal opinion, Judge Babcock said that Prosecutor’s do NOT have unbridled power to intrude on dismissing Knox’s claim that her status as a government official meant she was not liable,

Babcock ruled that ‘because Mink’s activities were satire and protected by the First Amendment, Knox could not have reasonably believed the articles in Mink’s publication stated actual facts about Peake (the professor and target of the satire), and she could not have believed that a crime was committed.’

The court limited the DA’s power to a good faith exercise of that authority.

H. Michael’s Take

This ruling will send shock waves throughout Colorado and the nation. I was a DA for 13 years – and time and again, I witnessed prosecutors lose touch with the kind of power they wield.

Every suspect was a “dirtbag,” ever defendant was a liar, every person charged with a crime needed to be punished for their actions no matter what the mitigation or the reasons for their actions.

It became clear to me that the “cloud” of authority DA’s carry around them often distorts their thinking and their perception.

This ruling should send a message to them that complete blanket immunity is no longer the case for their actions – they will be held accountable for their decisions.

It is a good thing for the powerful to know there is a limit to their power. HMS