Former Denver City Attorney Larry Manzanares was criminally charged Wednesday in connection with a stolen laptop computer belonging to the city that ended up in his possession.
The Denver native and former district judge was charged with felony charges of embezzlement of public property, theft, tampering with physical evidence. He was also charged with misdemeanor charges of official misconduct and computer crime, according to the Jefferson County District Attorney's Office. He was expected to turn himself in and be released on a personal recognizance bond.
The district attorney's office held a 3:30 p.m. news conference to discuss the filing of charges.
Manzanares, 50, resigned his position last February following a 7NEWS investigation, headed by 7NEWS Investigator Tony Kovaleski. He had been appointed to his position by Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper less than two months earlier and took office on Jan. 4.
Manzanares had been under criminal investigation since a missing Gateway M280 laptop was found in his home, after the Internet address was traced through Comcast. Manzanares told 7NEWS at the time that he bought the laptop from a stranger in the parking lot near the City and County Building and he had no idea that the computer was stolen.
He said he didn't remember how much he had paid for it. According to the affidavit, Manzanares said the unidentified man provided him with a password for the computer.
"When I was informed that there was a computer that was stolen and that it might be one that I had, I immediately brought it back because, until that point, I had no idea. The minute I learned that there was a stolen computer, I brought it in," Manzanares told Kovleski.
The affidavit also said that sexually explicit material was found on the computer and, based on computer analysis, was uploaded onto the computer during the same time frame that the computer was determined to be missing. However, Storey said the sexual material was not necessarily criminal, though they are still investigating.
Manzanares told Kovleski he did not take the computer from the City and County Building. He said he bought the computer sometime in mid-January from a man who said he needed to sell the laptop to help with bail money.
The computer was stolen from a storage room in Denver District Court, where Manzanares was a former judge and was valued at $1,579, according to a police report filed on Jan. 26.
A special prosecutor from Jefferson County had been looking into the case, in order to avoid a possible conflict of interest by the Denver District Attorney's Office which presented cases before Manzanares when he was a district judge.
"This has been a very complex investigation," said Jefferson County District Attorney Scott Storey. "We want to acknowledge the cooperation we received from Mayor Hickenloopers Office as well as the outstanding police work that was done by the Denver Police Department in the first few weeks of the investigation."
Manzanares, a former District Court judge and Harvard Law School graduate who lectures on ethics at the University of Denver law school, said he felt foolish when he found out the computer was stolen.
"I hope we're not measured by our mistakes but instead by the ... you know, the career that I've had for many years, a distinguished career. I hope that's how people think of me, but you know, I did something which is not very smart -- which is I bought a computer in a parking lot," Manzanares told Kovaleski in an exclusive interview.
Manzanares' attorney issued a brief statement following the district attorney's announcement of charges and called his client, "a human being with an extraordinary reputation as a good lawyer, judge, public servant, husband, father, son, and friend..
The statement continued, "There is no adult who has not exercised bad judgment or made a mistake in their lifetime. Whether he exercised good judgment in buying a used computer isn't at issue. When the judicial system addresses the real question - whether he broke the law, we know he'll be treated fairly. It would be inappropriate to comment any further," attorney Gary Lozow concluded.
He is still listed as Denver's city attorney on the city's Web site
Jan. 26: A state court administrative worker reports a $1,579 laptop computer missing from Denver City and County Building.
Jan. 31: Theft detection software installed in the missing laptop sends notification to an electronic monitoring center that the computer is logged on to the Internet. The users' Internet Protocol (IP) address is recorded by the monitoring center.
Feb. 7: Denver County Court Judge Melvin Okamoto issues a search warrant allowing a Denver police detective access to Comcast customer records that identify the subscriber through the IP address.
Feb. 20: Carol Haller, legal counsel for the state court administrator's office, asks Denver police not to prosecute anyone in the laptop theft.
Feb. 21: A deputy district attorney initially decides she can drop the case because of Haller's request, but the prosecutor's superiors reverse the decision after learning that Manzanares, a former judge, is the person suspected of having the stolen laptop.
Feb. 22: Manzanares tells 7NEWS Investigator Tony Kovaleski that he bought the laptop in January from a homeless man who needed bail money. He denies stealing the computer and says he purchased the laptop in a parking lot near the City & County Building.
Feb. 23: Mayor John Hickenlooper puts Manzanares on leave after being contacted by Kovaleski. A special prosecutor is appointed to investigate the case. 7NEWS breaks the story about Manzanares having the stolen laptop in his possession that night.
Feb. 27: Manzanares submits his resignation, saying the investigation had become an "untenable distraction."
June 13: Manzanares is charged in the case.
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