Ask spokesman Jeff Dorschner to identify the highest profile cases prosecuted by the U.S. attorney in Colorado over the past decade and he doesn’t miss a beat: Former Qwest CEO Joe Nacchio, convicted of insider trading; Terry Barton, the U.S. Forest Service worker who started the largest wildfire in Colorado history; and the three Roman Catholic nuns, convicted of malicious destruction of property for spreading their own blood on a nuclear missile silo in Weld County.
But ask Dorschner who will be his new boss, and he comes up empty-handed.
“I would be hard-pressed to answer that,” says Dorschner.
Similarly, the spokesman for Sen. Ken Salazar who, as Colorado’s senior U.S. senator, would be charged with submitting recommendations of who should be Colorado’s next U.S. attorney to president-elect Barack Obama, is mum on the possibilities.
“It’s still too early in the process,” says Matt Lee-Ashley, Salazar’s spokesman. “We’re not there yet.”
Indeed, Salazar’s expected appointment to become secretary of the interior may take him out of the process entirely.
The likelihood that Colorado’s current U.S. attorney, Troy Eid, appointed by George W. Bush in 2006, will continue in that role is slim. But the lengthy nomination process to name a replacement, which could take months, hasn’t deterred the rumor mill from spinning grist.
Though top profile cases like the Nacchio, Barton and Roman Catholic nun cases often make the headlines, the cases that come before the U.S. attorney in Colorado usually are those involving natural resources, federal military and correctional facilities, crimes on Indian reservations, federal child porn cases, and terrorism. Before Eid was appointed, John Suthers served as U.S. attorney until he became Colorado’s attorney general; before that Democrat Tom Strickland served.
Top among the likely contenders to emerge to replace Eid, according to several knowledgeable sources who spoke on condition of anonymity, is Don Quick, the 17th Judicial District district attorney who previously worked for Salazar when he was Colorado’s attorney general — including three years as Salazar’s chief deputy overseeing 330 attorneys, investigators and staff. In all, Quick has more than 20 years of civil and criminal prosecution experience and has been appointed to numerous boards, commissions and task forces, including serving as president of the Colorado District Attorney’s Council from 2006-07.
On Monday afternoon, Quick confirmed he’s “taking a look at it.” The timing isn’t ideal, Quick told the Colorado Independent, pointing out that he was re-elected just last month to second term as district attorney for the 17th Judicial District, which includes Broomfield and Adams counties.
Yet at the same time, Eric Holder, Obama’s selection for attorney general, has been very supportive of the types of programs that have inspired Quick, including youth initiatives to keep kids in school that are similar to one that Quick has installed in Adams County.
“It’s difficult, timing-wise, but that part is very intriguing to me — the possibility of taking such a position under the leadership of Eric Holder. At this point, I can say I’m taking a look at it,” Quick said.