Who is the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition?
Our mission is to reverse the trend of mass incarceration in Colorado. We are a coalition of nearly 7,000 individual members and over 100 faith and community organizations who have united to stop perpetual prison expansion in Colorado through policy and sentence reform.
Our chief areas of interest include drug policy reform, women in prison, racial injustice, the impact of incarceration on children and families, the problems associated with re-entry and stopping the practice of using private prisons in our state.
Tim Masters hasn't said much about the two former prosecutors who worked hard to convict him of the 1987 Fort Collins slaying of Peggy Hettrick.
But he recently decided to let his opinions be known through his wallet. Masters and his defenders are bankrolling a group hoping to block the retention of Larimer County District Judges Jolene Blair and Terry Gilmore.
In August, Masters contributed $2,000 to the Committee for Judicial Justice. As of Sept. 15, the most recent campaign-finance report deadline, the Committee for Judicial Justice had raised $5,606 in the effort to vote Blair and Gilmore out of office.
Blair and Gilmore were the prosecutors who tried Masters in 1999 for the Hettrick murder. A jury convicted Masters, and he spent 10 years behind bars before new DNA evidence pointed to other suspects in the killing. Masters was released from prison in 2008.
Blair and Gilmore were censured by the state Supreme Court's presiding disciplinary judge for not providing potential evidence that could have helped Masters.
Masters, who won a $10 million settlement from the city of Fort Collins and Larimer County, also gave the group $1,000 after the Sept. 15 report deadline, bringing his total contribution to the campaign to $3,000, said attorney Troy Krenning, a member of the Judicial Justice board.
Masters couldn't be reached for comment Thursday. Blair and Gilmore declined to comment. A review of Judicial Justice's campaign finance reports noting contributions by Masters and his legal team was first reported by State Bill Colorado.
Krenning said Masters could have given more to Judicial Justice, but that's not his style.
"He's got enough money he could bankroll this entire effort and to ensure these two wouldn't be retained," said Krenning, a Fort Collins police detective at the time of the Hettrick investigation. "But he doesn't want this to be a Tim Masters vs. Blair and Gilmore."
Krenning, who has steadfastly maintained Masters' innocence, also gave $1,000 to Judicial Justice. Greeley attorney Maria Liu, who worked on Masters' appeal, gave $2,000 on Sept. 7. Erik Fischer, who worked on Masters' defense team in 1999, gave $500 to Judicial Justice on Sept. 7, according to the secretary of state's office.
In August, Judicial Justice registered as a 527 political organization, so it is allowed to raise and spend unlimited amounts of money. But the group cannot tell voters how to vote, said Rich Coolidge, spokesman for the secretary of state's office.
Judicial Justice's website gives visitors the following message: "Remember Tim Masters: No on Judges Blair & Gilmore."
Signs and stickers
The group's most recent filings showed it spent about $5,500 during the reporting period, mostly for yard signs, bumper stickers and a billboard north of Fort Collins.
"Our coverage is still kind of spotty, but we are working hard to get the word out," said Sandy Lemberg, the head of Judicial Justice.
Colorado Attorney General John Suthers this week said new DNA evidence has been uncovered in the Hettrick case but wouldn't say whose DNA was found.
Masters, though out of prison, has not been exonerated in the murder.
In August, Blair and Gilmore were unanimously recommended for retention by the Larimer County Judicial Performance Commission. The group acknowledged the controversy over Masters' conviction but said the community would be well served by retaining them as judges.
Krenning said he has known Blair and Gilmore for many years. But he said he wants to unseat them because there has been little or no accountability in the case.
"Not one person involved directly or indirectly in this case has ever uttered the words 'I'm sorry,' " Krenning said.