GREELEY — Weld County Sheriff Steve Reams appears to be paying the price for continuing to voice his opinion on the state’s Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO or “Red Flag”) law and Gov. Jared Polis’s mandate to release prisoners from the jail over concerns of the coronavirus.
Reams recently received his third dismissal from a “Red Flag” claim by an inmate, and he currently awaits the decision of a federal court judge who is determining if Reams violated inmates’ safety by failing to protect them from the coronavirus.
“I am absolutely being challenged,” Reams said. “The fact that I’m vocally against the governor and against left legislators has drawn some attention.”
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Colorado filed suit against Reams in federal court alleging his political differences with Polis caused Reams to deliberately ignore the COVID-19 pandemic and that he did not protect inmates at the Weld County Jail from exposure to the illness.
However, as of the most recent documents available through the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment website, both the Weld Interventions Community Corrections Agency, which is a privately run, non-profit correctional facility (19 inmates test positive, 44 inmates presumed positive) and the Sterling Correctional Facility (241 inmates test positive, two inmates presumed positive) had more cases than the Weld jail (eight inmates test positive, no inmates presumed positive). One additional inmate that tested positive died; however, that inmate was never suspected of, or tested for coronavirus while in the jail. He had underlying medical conditions. He was never confirmed to have contracted the virus in the jail.
But the ACLU has only sued Reams, bringing the case on behalf of seven inmates. Reams said they attempted to make their entire case on politics, including presenting screen shots of both his personal and professional Facebook pages as well as clips from interviews Reams granted local radio personalities.
Reams appeared in court on Thursday to defend the charges and is now waiting for a response from the judge. In a 28-page response to the court, Reams outlined more than 80 steps he took at the jail to prevent an outbreak beginning in February, before any state recommendations or executive orders were made.
They even asked me if I thought Governor Polis’ request to release inmates from the Department of Corrections was politically motivated. I said, ‘yes.’”
However, facing his third ERPO from the same inmate since the process became law Jan. 1 is at the forefront for Reams, who said his concerns about falsified filings is coming to fruition and that it’s wasting not only his time, but more importantly the time of the judges, who are required to consider every filing individually.
Leo Jose Crespin, 51, has been in custody at the Weld County Jail for at least 18 months awaiting trial on various charges, Reams said. All three times, Crespin has alleged relationship eligibility to file by stating he “regularly resides with Reams” because he is an inmate in Reams’ jail.
The ERPO has been ruled on by three separate judges. The first time, Chief Justice James Hartman denied the request but did not rule on the authenticity of the relationship. The second time, Judge Vincente Vigil denied the request and threatened perjury charges if Crespin filed again.
The most recent filing was heard by Judge Todd Taylor who also denied the ERPO and threatened recourse for subsequent filings.
“It is not credible that Sheriff Reams actually resides at the jail,” Taylor wrote in his ruling, “meaning that he spends non-working hours in the jail and sleeps there.”
Taylor found that Crespin failed to show that he and Sheriff Reams reside together now or have done so in the last six months. He also admonished Crespin for the fraudulent filing.
“The petition is yet another attempt by Mr. Crespin to challenge the security decisions at the Weld County Jail made by Sheriff Reams and members of his staff, which is not the purpose of the Deputy Zackari Parish III Violence Prevention Act,” Taylor wrote. “Because Mr. Crespin continues to use this law for an improper purpose, the court once again puts him on notice that it will review any future filings … to determine whShhether they are substantially frivolous, substantially groundless, or substantially vexatious, and then enter further orders as appropriate under the statute.”
Reams said that hasn’t happened to date, but he hopes the courts take that seriously if he files again.
“It hasn’t affected much of my time,” Reams said. “The problem is it eats time from my jail staff, but most importantly it’s wasting court time. The judges’ dockets are full as it is, and these petitions have to take the top priority. They can’t dismiss them without having to weigh in and take action on each and every one of them.”