Pitkin sheriff releases video of jail flooding, inmate’s fight with deputies

The Aspen Times:  Over the objections of the district attorney, Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo released video Thursday of an inmate flooding the jail and fighting with deputies two weeks ago.

The Aspen Times requested the video Aug. 25, the day Benjamin Garrett, 32, tore a light housing fixture from the ceiling of a holding cell and used it to destroy a sprinkler head. The action not only caused what could end up to be more than $100,000 in damage, but also violence because he fought with deputies who entered the cell .

However, DiSalvo said he declined to release the video until detectives were finished investigating the case. That investigation ended Wednesday, he said.

“I strongly believe the citizens of Pitkin County should know how we are doing our job,” DiSalvo said. “I think the public has a right to know about 95 percent of what we do.”

District Attorney Sherry Caloia disagreed with the sheriff, saying last week that his release of the video could cause her to be sanctioned because it could be considered an “extra-judicial statement” and, thus, against prosecutorial rules of conduct. She also said releasing the video could compromise Garrett’s right to a fair trial and taint the jury pool if and when he goes to trial.

On Thursday, Caloia said she spoke with DiSalvo and understands his position.

“We just respectfully disagree,” she said.

Steven Zansberg, a First Amendment lawyer and counsel for the Colorado Press Association, said last week that the extra-judicial statement rule doesn’t apply to release of records. Also, because DiSalvo isn’t a lawyer, she cannot be sanctioned for a record he releases, Zansberg said.

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