The former Colorado state court administrator was deliberately set up to take the fall in a three-year-old court scandal to ensure ‘the powers that be’ could walk away unscathed, says his lawyer at The Gazette.
Breaking more than a year of public silence after revealing a multimillion-dollar contract awarded to a fired Justice Department executive that sought to avoid a threat of a sex discrimination lawsuit, Christopher Ryan said through his lawyer that his reputation had been intentionally destroyed to protect accomplices in the scandal.
“They completely ruined Chris’s reputation, completely and unjustifiably,” attorney Phillip Geigle told The Gazette in an interview. “There was nothing to hold Chris to account. He did everything his superiors asked him to do, including the Chief Justice, and he did it ethically and legally.
He added: ‘This process was conducted with one objective in mind, to protect the powers that be and is in no way designed to uncover the truth of the matter.
The Judiciary Department, through a spokesperson, said it had no comment.
Geigle spoke out following a Gazette exclusive last week that revealed prosecutors opted not to investigate Ryan and three others recommended for criminal investigation by state auditors who stand are bent over the scandal.
Prosecutors with the Denver District Attorney’s Office said they received the auditor’s recommendations too late to circumvent the statute of limitations for any alleged crimes, so they closed the case.
The Gazette revealed that while the auditors could have informed prosecutors of their findings as early as May 2021 – allowing ample time to investigate further and file charges if warranted – that did not happen.
Despite a state law requiring auditors to “immediately” notify law enforcement of a potential fraud, attorneys for the Colorado Attorney General’s Office and the Judiciary Department argued over whether the word meant at when it was discovered or when the auditors filed a full report.
That report underwent nine months of rewrites designed largely by those same attorneys before prosecutors were briefed on the auditors’ findings in a “highly redacted” report of critical information needed for their investigation.
And when prosecutors attempted to obtain the missing information, they were told to sign nondisclosure agreements or provide a grand jury subpoena in order to receive it.
“For them to suggest a grand jury subpoena is absurd, especially when it comes to a referral to prosecution by the judiciary and the auditors,” said Geigle, a former assistant district attorney in Denver.
“And you need some kind of place to start,” Geigle added. “What can you do with a redacted report? It was a setup from the start.
That the lawyers argued over the definition of a word and the redactions is that “the blind leading the blind and the innocent like Chris are caught in the crossfire, their reputations utterly ruined,” Geigle said.
Ryan revealed in February 2021 that a judicial training contract worth up to $2.75 million had been awarded to a company owned by Mindy Masias, the former chief of staff of the Office of the Forensic Department of the United States. administrator of the state court, to prevent him from filing a lawsuit. any trial. She was an unsuccessful candidate for Ryan’s job and was later fired for financial improprieties.
Details of what Masias would reveal in his lawsuit were leaked in a two-page memo read during a January 2019 meeting between Ryan, then-Chief Justice Ben Coats, Chief Counsel Andrew Rottman and Director Eric Brown. human resources and close friend of Masias.
The memo contained a number of allegations of judicial misconduct that were intentionally glossed over or not subject to disciplinary action, including a confidential settlement of harassment allegations against a court judge of appeal at the time so as not to prevent him from being appointed to the Supreme Court, which happened later. Ryan said it was Coats who authorized the contract after hearing what Masias was prepared to reveal in his lawsuit.
Ryan resigned from his role in July 2019 amid a newspaper investigation into Masias’ contract. Brown also resigned and the contract was voided. Coats retired in December 2020.
Following Ryan’s disclosure of the memo in February 2021, the judges publicly released a copy after saying they were seeing it for the first time. Current Supreme Court Chief Justice Brian Boatright and the other justices have jointly denied any wrongdoing and that Coats did anything wrong.
Months later, it was revealed that the judges had known about the memo all along, but hadn’t actually seen it until then.
Several investigations were launched when the memo was leaked, including the state auditor’s investigation, which included a whistleblower letter that appeared around the time the contract was awarded to Masias. The letter did not contain any allegation regarding the contract.
The letter contained allegations of fraud and wasteful spending throughout the department. Listeners later discovered that Masias and Brown had been paid to speak at various national conferences while collecting their state paychecks.
Listeners also said it appeared Ryan brokered a lucrative severance deal for a department employee who was a personal friend. Geigle disputed the claim, saying Ryan only signed the deal after a lawyer from the legal department helped negotiate it.
Auditors also determined that the process that awarded the contract to Masias was manipulated, but did not discuss the allegation that it was a quid pro quo deal.
Without giving further details, prosecutors said they chose only to investigate Masias and Brown’s double-dipping allegations.
The fact that prosecutors later decided not to pursue the investigation further hurts Ryan.
“It’s not satisfying at all. You have there that it’s an argument saved by the bell, that Chris somehow got away with it,” Geigle said. ‘is wrong. Chris has been cooperative since day one and investigated six paths up to Sunday and there’s nothing out there and the judiciary knows it. They sat on it for 10 months and then it went to the DA where it wouldn’t see the light of day because they couldn’t do anything with it.
Geigle said Ryan expected better from the remaining investigations of the Judicial Disciplinary Committee, the Office of the Regulatory Prosecutor, two companies hired by the Judiciary Department and the FBI.
“There has been a complete lack of transparency in all of this and as a citizen I ask what is going on there,” Geigle said of the judicial department. “We haven’t come to the truth of the case yet and we hope it comes out.”