Federal Lawsuit: District Attorney Dan May’s office filed criminal charges to silence critic
Prosecutors in Colorado Springs stand accused of retaliating against a man who sought to publicly criticize their decision to press charges against him.
A civil rights lawsuit filed Monday in U.S. District Court names 4th Judicial District Attorney Dan May, May’s Senior Deputy DA Sharon Flaherty, and an investigator in the office.
The plaintiff, Mark Alba, was acting as his own defense lawyer in a criminal case stemming from a 2015 run-in he had with an armored truck worker he accused of pointing a gun at him. The DA’s office chose to prosecute Alba instead with attempting to influence the detective in the case and false reporting. He said he was innocent of those charges.
Alba refused to accept a plea offer from Flaherty, the prosecutor in his case. In a 2016 phone conversation, he told her he’d give her a day to drop the criminal charges against him. If she didn’t, he said he’d contact the news media and his congressman alleging prosecutorial misconduct.
Flaherty can be heard in a recording she made of the 2016 phone call asking Alba if he was threatening her. “…(Y)ou’re talking about destroying my career,” she told him.
Alba calmly answered that it was no a threat, but rather his free-speech right to speak out against what he saw as injustice and corruption by her and her office. He told Flaherty she was destroying her own career by pursuing unfounded charges against him.
“I’m not threatening to do anything. I mean, I have the right to, to get the public to know exactly what’s on with the dirty goings-on inside the City of Colorado Springs. It’s not a threat. It’s my right to do it. I’m not threatening you with violence or anything like that. I’m just giving you a heads up of what I’m going to do.”
With the help of DA’s investigator David Guest, to whom she said she felt threatened, Flaherty then had Alba arrested for threatening a public official. Alba spent five days in jail before posting bond, and then a year fighting the second set of criminal charges. In January of this year, a judge threw out the case, citing Alba’s rights to criticize the DA’s office. In April, a jury found Alba not guilty in the original case involving the armored car worker.
His federal lawsuit accuses Flaherty and Guest – as well as May, the elected DA for whom they work – of misusing their authority by prosecuting him out of retaliation. His lawsuit says they violated his 1st Amendment and other civil rights, and that May failed to properly train his employees against whom several allegations of prosecutorial misconduct have been lodged. They’re cited in Alba’s lawsuit.
May’s office prosecutes cases in El Paso and Teller counties.
As of this posting, none of the plaintiffs has returned inquiries for comment. Nor has Lee Richards, the DA’s office’s spokeswoman.
Photos provided by the 4th Judicial District and the law firm of Frank & Salahuddin LLC.
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