John McHale: Barkey attitude unfair


It was with special interest that I read your article about Brett Barkey ("Failed negotiations lead to trials, with mixed success in Colorado's 14th Judicial District," March 2 Steamboat Pilot & Today), the Routt County district attorney, and his hard-line, my-way-or-the-highway attitude that any crime will be prosecuted to the fullest extent and making this community his personal Gulag.

I had the unpleasant experience of dealing with Barkey on the phone and briefly in person when I tried to advocate for a young soldier who was born and raised in Steamboat Springs. In between tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, he came home for Christmas vacation. During this period, he was stopped and charged with DUI. He was over the legal limit at .12. This was, and is, the only bad mark on his otherwise clean record.

I and several members of our community pleaded with Barkey to consider the fact that this combat medic who had lost 11 members of his unit be afforded at least a deferred sentence, if not a dismissal. Barkey would not hear of it, even though Barkey was told that a conviction would result in his dismissal from the Army upon his return from Afghanistan, where he was getting mortared and shot at daily at his camp on the Pakistan border.

His welcome home and “Thank you for your service” by Steamboat and the D.A. was to be put on trial. He was found guilty, fined $2,500 and given one year probation and 40 hours of community service (the time in Iraq and Afghanistan didn’t count).

The young soldier will be separating from the Army in August.

I hope the voters will thank Barkey for his “service” by voting him out of office.

John McHale

Steamboat Springs


Ken Mauldin 3 years, 1 month ago

John, If he were only intoxicated in public I could understand giving him a ride home and leaving it at that. However, as a soldier, he was expected to show better judgement than drinking and driving and threatening the lives of others. He had his day in Court to explain himself and ask for leniency and was convicted. That's the process.

Your complaint seems to be that the DA charged the young man according to the law and he was subsequently held responsible by the Court for his actions.


Ken Mauldin 3 years, 1 month ago

I completely agree with the substance of your post and never offered a personal opinion as to how the soldier's case should have been resolved. My point was to illustrate that it's a bit misguided to blame the DA after a Court has rendered a verdict on a case. There are several pertinents omitted from the original piece; such as a) did a Jury convict the soldier and b) was his discharge from the Army voluntary and Honorable or was his discharge affected by the conviction.

Where should our desire for prosecutorial discretion begin? Wouldn't it be just as easy to blame the police officer that made the charge? Couldn't/Shouldn't the police officer let him go or driven him home? Surely, he appealed to the officer at the time that he was on leave and a DUI would cause him big trouble. In the end, these are decisions that we entrust to Courts/Juries and it's hard to be too upset with a DA that followed the law.

As for the Pot Bombers, I agree they got off way too easy.


Scott Wedel 3 years, 1 month ago

Obviously, he would have been given a ride if he had asked. Doesn't even appear that he disputed his guilt.

But to continue serving in the army required a plea deal to include a lesser charge.and that is what Barkey refused. And so the young man's army career is over.

A jury is not allowed to consider the likely impacts upon the defendant of being convicted of this or that charge. Nor is the defense allowed to say the defendant will accept a lesser charge, but the more severe charge would ruin his army career. So he needed the DA to offer a plea deal that would let him keep his army career. And that is what Barkey refused to do.


Ken Mauldin 3 years, 1 month ago

Scott: It certainly sounds harsh for the circumstances that I'm aware of. I'd like to hear the DA's explanation. There's almost always more to the story.


Scott Wedel 3 years, 1 month ago


The idea that there might be another side of the story is undercut by the sentence given by the judge whom is allowed to consider outside factors. The sentence appears to be the bare minimum allowed.

And that would seem to be the point. That the judge's sentence is nothing compared to the consequences of the conviction and yet the DA wasn't smart or kind enough to consider that.

The conviction/sentence for the Pine Grove fumigators will have virtually no future impact upon them if they can still clean for a year. And yet a soldier has his career ruined.


Ken Mauldin 3 years, 1 month ago

Scott: To paraphrase from your description of the DA - The grown man that got the DUI should have been smart enough to not drink and drive - especially if his career plans were dependent upon not getting a DUI. I understand that it seems excessive to some but he's not the first to lose a job or career path because of a DUI. What if he wanted to be a police officer and lost that opportunity because of a DUI? It happens all the time. Decisions have consequences and he knew that. We're not talking about an 8th grade kid that was caught with pot. We're talking about a grown man, with combat experience and a head-full of sense that chose to drink and drive while on leave. There's a reason the Army holds that against people. Maybe Mr. Barkey is a terrible DA and needs to be replaced, but this case isn't an example of prosecutorial misconduct. I'm not even sure it rises to poor professional judgment. If the DUI would have accompanied a vehicular homicide charge we wouldn't even be having this conversation and nobody in the community would have advocated for deferment or dismissal. If prosecutorial discretion is the foundation of your argument, you should focus your displeasure with the officer that cited him rather than take him home after he smelled alcohol, admitted drinking or blew the .12. Again, maybe Barkey is the worst DA the valley has ever seen - this case just doesn't seem to be an example.


Scott Wedel 3 years, 1 month ago

But that is the point of the letter - that Barkey could have allowed the soldier to continue his career and didn't.

DA could have accepted a plea so that if the soldier repeated the mistake that he would be severely punished.

.12 is hardly being smashed and probably was a mistake. Not that it should go unpunished, but it didn't have to have the consequences it did.

The arresting officer can't be sure the guy was a soldier or any number of alcohol issues in other states. It is the prosecutor that should exercise proprietorial discretion, not the officer. The prosecutor has time to learn about the defendant and the circumstances around the case.

I go back to the judge's sentence. As light as possible and could have been the sentence for a reckless driving plea. And DAs do not go to trial seeking the minimum sentence. Pretty clear that if it was in the judge's discretion that he wouldn't have pursued that charge.


Bernard Gagne Jr 3 years, 1 month ago

An unfortunate case for the individual, understandably so. Lost his Army career due to a bad decision. It was his decision to drive, and a bad decision it was. The point still stands however, that Brett Barkey is bad for Routt County. Mr. Barkey is unprofessional. Mr. Barkey has poor communication skills. Mr. Barkey lacks the necessary qualifications to be the Senior Prosecutor representing the citizens of our County. Mr Barkey has neither the I.Q. (intellectual quotient) nor the E.Q. (emotional quotient) to represent the fine people of this county or Judicial District 14. VOTE NO on Mr. Barkey.


jerry carlton 3 years, 1 month ago

Pat West We do not often agree but I am with you 100% on your post.


Scott Wedel 3 years, 1 month ago

It isn't bending the rules. The DA makes plea deals all the time.

The question is whether the DA is serving the cause of justice. Justice should recognize the circumstances in which the punishment is very easy for the defendant or which it is has a huge impact.

The letter did state that he intended to stay longer in the army than was possible with this conviction on his record.


mark hartless 3 years, 1 month ago

This society is infected with excuse-making, ; with "special circumstances"; with everyone having an excuse.

And please please stop all the drivel about how anyone who has ever worn a uniform of any kind is a "hero". If everyone is a hero then nobody is.

Of all people, soldiers ought to have more self-discipline than to get a DUI. Your service to your country does not entitle you to endanger my family or others... EVER.

Selective enforcement of laws is killing this republic... absolutely killing it.

The rule of law is supposed to apply and BE applied equally and blindly to ALL.

To the extent that Mr. Barkey does so, and does so aggressively, I salute him.


Eric Morris 3 years, 1 month ago

Mark, you are spot on with this comment. Thank you for your service in educating.


Colette Durst 2 years, 8 months ago

This discussion is excellent. One issue no one mentioned is that the rate of PTSD,, alcoholism, domestic abuse, divorce and suicide is extremely high among returning vets. This young military member needs help and the best way for him to get the help he needs is by making sure he stays in the military where he can get support and counseling This is in the best interest of society. If this young man is suffering now, how will he be when he loses his job and the "family" of soldiers that come with the job? We do not want this young military member to be another suicide or PTSD statistic.

Laws are made to protect society. Society would have been best protected in this case if this young man stayed in the Army.

The rule of law is never applied equally and blindly and should never be applied equally and blindly. This is why prosecutors are allowed to plea bargain and why someone with no prior record gets off with a more lenient sentence. We have to look at all factors when deciding punishment.

We all know how war can damage a soldier and how these soldiers "bring the war home." We owe it to all military to help them rather than punish them so they can return to society, get a job, and leave the pain of war behind.


mark hartless 2 years, 8 months ago

I guess the people who came up with the idea of "Lady Justice" wearing a blindfold didn't have the knowledge of justice that you do, Colette.

I also have to guess that the Supreme Court was mistaken when it adopted the motto "Equal Justice Under the Law".

Society might have been best protected if this young man had taken to heart the discipline he was supposed to have learned in the armed forces. Society was NOT served by him endangering the lives of those he was sworn to protect.

Yes, war can damege a man, even kill them. So can operating a vehicle while having a blood alcohol content of .12.

If the law was made to protect society, let it first protect those who can not protect themselves, like the women and children who shared the road with a man who swore to protect them but who instead deliberately and knowingly endangered them for his own enjoyment.

Let us also consider how much he thought of his fellow soldiers, for he was fully aware that his actions could lead to him being unable to return to them and fight alongside them. Let us even consider the possibility that this might have even been his motivation.

Unfortunately, the law no longer is confined to it's designed purpose. It has instead become the very instrument of special and unequal treatment is was supposed to guard against. The rich, the pollitically connected, the excuse-makers... they all do far too well in our "justice" system.

It is unfortunate that so many Americans, like Colette, are now influenced emotionally by criminals that claim "special circumstances" when thousands, even millions of other similar individuals with similar circumstances make the RIGHT decisions every day; when those who have similar hardships OVERCOME temptation and RESIST excuse-making every day.

By making excuses for so much and for so many, we reduce the really special people, those who persevere, to run-of-the-mill, and thus encourage everyone to behave badly and make excuses.


rhys jones 2 years, 8 months ago

The worst I ever blew was .14, and I was stumbling drunk then. .12 shows bad judgment, whatever the exigent circumstances. It was as likely to go up, as down, due to the alcohol yet to hit his system. Food wouldn't fix it. No mention is made of a military career being ruined, just a blot on the record. Nobody gave me any breaks; this guy doesn't deserve one either.


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