Colorado state representative given 'special treatment' during DUI stop
POSTED: Thursday, February 2, 2012 - 10:00am
UPDATED: Thursday, February 2, 2012 - 10:04am
NBC NATIONAL NEWS — Denver Police admit they gave State Rep. Laura Bradford special treatment during a suspected DUI stop, even though they say she specifically told them she did not want special treatment.
Bradford now faces an ethics investigation in the Colorado House.
Denver Police have said that Bradford was pulled over on January 25 just after 10 p.m. when an officer saw her making an illegal turn.
During the traffic stop, the officer smelled alcohol on Bradford's breath and she admitted she had been drinking, police said.
The responding officer had called his supervisor after seeing Bradford's legislative license plates, and later came forward to Denver Police leadership saying that Bradford had gotten special treatment.
"We made a mistake. In Denver Police Chief Robert White's words, he's critically concerned with the actions of the supervisor," Denver Police Lt. Matt Murray said at a news conference on Tuesday afternoon. "We've initiated an internal affairs case, but with all that being said, we were wrong."
When she was pulled over, officers told her that she should be issued a citation for DUI, but instead, the sergeant called a taxi for Bradford and allowed her to leave the scene.
Murray says when the cab got to the scene, the sergeant asked Bradford if she had anything valuable in the car, and Bradford said she had a gun.
"The sergeant cleared the weapon to make sure it was safe, put it back in the vehicle, and then instructed the officer not to tell anyone about the weapon," Murray said.
It is a state misdemeanor offense to possess a firearm while under the influence of intoxicating liquor.
When she was pulled over, Murray says Bradford told officers she did not want special treatment.
"'I want to be treated like everyone else.' She made that statement several times during the stop," Murray said.
Denver Police learned about the alleged special treatment from the original responding officer.
"The chief is very proud of the officer for coming forward and doing the right thing," Murray said.
Murray says Denver Police has initiated an internal affairs investigation into the matter.
House Speaker Frank McNulty has requested an ethics committee to investigate whether Bradford was driving drunk and if she invoked legislative privilege to stop from being arrested.
"None of us have any pre-conceived notions of how this ethics committee will move forward, except for the fact that they will have the opportunity to review a series of information," McNulty said. "It's a charge we take very seriously."
He says Bradford will continue to serve as member of the Health and Environment Committee and keep serving as a member of the House.
"At the time she certainly understood the need for the house to conduct this investigation," McNulty said. "She has shown a willingness to move through this and to accept responsibility for her part in this."
McNulty says the most serious consequence she could face is expulsion from the House.
On Monday, Bradford addressed the State House floor about the issue:
"Colleagues and friends, it's with a deep sense of pain and remorse that I stand before you today. I am not above the law. I am bound to the same laws and standards as every other citizen. I am sorry that my actions have cast a shadow on this House and the entire General Assembly. Last Wednesday evening, I was pulled over by the Denver Police for traffic violations. I was driving my personal car with legislative license plates. In response to the officer's inquiries, I stated that I was leaving a legislative function and needed to be at the Capitol the next day. I responded to officers' questions. My statements were not intended to invoke legislative privilege. I am deeply sorry for my actions, and I apologize to each member of this body, to my constituents and to the people of Colorado."
Last week, Denver Police say they had let Bradford go because of a part of the Colorado Constitution that prohibits them from interfering with a state legislator who is leaving a legislative function.
Tuesday, Murray said police had misconstrued that piece of information.
"I appreciate the Denver Police coming forward with this apology," McNulty said.
"There's no doubt that we need to add clarity and context to this thing called 'legislative privilege,'" he said. "Clearly it wasn't designed to be interpreted and implemented as it has been."