By Don Knox, STATE BILL COLORADO
U.S. Attorney nominee and Gov. Bill Ritter aide Stephanie Villafuerte says in a newly released letter that she didn’t press the Denver DA’s office to access a secret government database about a criminal case that figured in a TV commercial for a competing gubernatorial candidate.
Nor did she lie to the FBI about the incident, she writes.
Villafuerte’s assertions are contained in a letter to Sen. Mark Udall written and forwarded Thursday to the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is weighing Villafuerte’s nomination to the post by President Barack Obama. The cover letter was signed by Udall and Colorado’s other senator, Michael Bennet.
“At no time did I violate the letter or spirit of the law regarding possession of federal criminal database information from the National Crime Information Center and … at no time was I in any way dishonest with investigators” looking into the contested TV commercial,” Villafuerte writes.
The television ad centered on Mexican national Walter Noel Ramo, a defendant in a Colorado criminal case who was allowed to plea bargain to a trespass charge that did not result in his being deported. After his plea, Ramo, also known as Carlos Estrada Medina, went to California where he committed a sexual offense against a minor.
However, the connection between Ramo and his alter ego was contained nowhere other than the NCIC database, which is not to be used publicly.
A federal agent, Cory Voorhis, later was charged with leaking the Ramo/Medina data to the campaign of Republican gubernatorial candidate Cory Voorhis. He was acquitted, and one juror said the jurors felt the agent had been singled out for prosecution. Voorhis also is trying to get his old job back.
In her letter, Villafuerte said she called a Denver DA’s spokeswoman on Oct. 10, 2006, to seek public information, not secret information, about the Ramo/Medina case. She’s certain of this, she wrote, because she and the rest of the Ritter campaign already had concluded by this time that the NCIC database had been accessed in this, and other, instances.
“The Ritter campaign had already formed conclusions about the use of the databse based upon an independent investigation and presented those findings to the CBI before the Denver District Attorney’s Office ran the report from the NCIC database,” she wrote.
Villafuerte also said in her letter that she never denied having contact with members of the DA’s office during the Ritter campaign.