Local and state authorities were informed last week that a Montezuma County Sheriff’s Office deputy with a checkered past would no longer be utilized to prosecute criminals.
In an eight-paragraph letter dated Monday, July 29, District Attorney Will Furse told law enforcement officials that Deputy Darrin Harper had demonstrated a pattern and practice of disregard for the personal liberties and constitutional rights of local citizens. He also wrote that his office “can no longer prosecute cases attributed to Deputy Darrin Harper” due to the officer’s “unlawful actions.”
The July 29 written notification was addressed to Sheriff Dennis Spruell, and included copies to the Montezuma County Board of Commissioners, Cortez Police Department, Mancos Marshal’s Office and the Colorado State Patrol. An anonymous source forwarded a copy of the correspondence to the Cortez Journal.
Furse said his office is currently investigating Harper’s alleged misconduct, but he declined to reveal when the probe was launched.
“Deputy Harper’s conduct has been brought to the sheriff’s attention on numerous occasions where after no notable action or consequence followed,” Furse said. “With frequency, Harper’s credibility as a witness has been questioned based on accusations of falsified records, inaccurate reports and conflicting testimony.”
In the 635-word letter, Furse said Harper’s “unconstitutional acts” had forced the dismissal of serious criminal charges against numerous defendants. According to district attorney records, Harper — who is no longer employed by the MCSO — remains as a listed witness in 22 pending criminal cases.
“My office offered to train Deputy Harper and others on legal precedence and constitutional authority related to common situations such as traffic stops, witness questioning, Miranda advisements, home and vehicle searches and entry onto someone’s property,” Furse explained.
“That’s simply untrue,” Spruell responded during a 40-minute interview with the Cortez Journal. “Never have I been talked to about the district attorney’s office offering their assistance, ever,” he emphatically denied.
According to the letter, the training offered by the district attorney was met with both “reluctance and apathy” from the sheriff’s office. The letter further stated that the district attorney also offered constructive criticism as to “specific, prohibited performances” of Deputy Harper.
In response to the letter, Spruell described it as “bizarre” and “unprofessional” for Furse to send the letter to outside agencies, and claimed portions of the letter were “inaccurate,” “inflammatory,” “untrue” and “loaded with improprieties.”
“I think the letter was self-serving,” the sheriff said last week. “I don’t know what’s going on.”
However, during the media interview, Spruell repeatedly claimed that he initially requested a letter from the district attorney regarding Harper’s conduct.
“I’m the one that asked for the letter,” he said. “This has been an issue of mine.”
Furse denied those claims, saying the sheriff never solicited a letter. The letter was sent, Furse said, because he has had a number of cases within the past two to three weeks that had to be dismissed due to Harper’s actions.
“In one case, [Harper] kicked in a door without a warrant,” Furse explained. “His actions have been unconstitutional and unlawful.”
In addition to allegations of “ongoing and historically ignored” problems within the ranks of the Montezuma County Sheriff’s Office, Furse also wrote commending and thanking Sheriff Spruell for his efforts, and cited that a vast majority of his deputies were “virtuous and constitutionally knowledgeable.”
In response to the sheriff’s reactions, Furse said he stands by his correspondence.
“The letter is accurate, truthful and sincere,” he said.
The entire text of the letter can be viewed online at www.cortezjournal.com.