Prior to the mayoral election, Denver Mayor-elect Michael Hancock repeatedly asked Denver police if he or his vehicle was captured on video or in photographs at locations of an escort service authorities had under surveillance, records obtained Thursday by CALL7 Investigators showed.
Hancock's attorney, Bruce James, requested on June 3 that the police give him any evidence of Hancock at the escort service at 1675 Fillmore St., and on June 6 he asked that if any information is found about Hancock at other locations for the escort service that it be withheld from media, citing Hancock's privacy.
James said he was just trying to help clear Hancock's name and that any other assumption is a "tortured" interpretation of his email.
The controversy centers around the Denver Players, which was an escort service charging clients as much as $450 an hour for appointments with women, presumably for sex, court records said.
Hancock has maintained he never visited the escort service.
"Have you ever been a client of a prostitute or an escort?" asked 7NEWS reporter Marshall Zelinger.
"Absolutely not. This is categorically untrue. It's the most nastiest, negative lie that I have ever heard levied against me or anyone in this municipal election," said Hancock.
But last Friday, Hancock's lawyer, scrambling to suppress a story before Tuesday's election, sent an open records request to the Manager of Safety's office.
Emails show James was seeking:
"(A)ny video tape, photographs or any other evidence of such that the police department may hold that shows:
- Michael Hancock entering or leaving 1675 Fillmore Street.
- His vehicle at or near the address and/or photo or videos of his license plates at that facility."
Authorities said 1675 Fillmore Street was the address of the escort operation. Police have said they have no photographs or video of Hancock at that location.
The request by Hancocks lawyer also said:
"If you deny this criminal justice records act, please put your denial in writing. Please also inform us if any video or photos of Hancock or his vehicle exist so that we know how to properly proceed in the appeals process.
Further, James' request notes that Hancock is merely trying to clear his name, but said:
"(U)nder no circumstances are we authorizing or consenting to the release of the request materials directly to [news agencies] and hereby object to their request."
This request was sent on June 3 as Hancock and his lawyers were furiously trying to suppress news stories about why Hancock's cellphone number and misspelled name appeared on a client phone list and appointment logs for the escort service.
Email Asks About Escort Service's Other Locations
In the June 6 email James left open the possibility that Hancock may be seen at the escort service's other locations.
"While we believe the search will produce the same results (as the Fillmore location), in the unlikely event it does not, we believe disclosure of the result would violate the privacy interests of Mr. Hancock, and we would request that such a result be disclosed only to me in my capacity as his counsel," James wrote in an email.
In that email, James also told the Manager of Safety's office that he has no problem with police releasing a letter that said there was no evidence of Hancock at the Fillmore Street location.
"If the search reaches the same results as this morning's, namely no evidence of Mr. Hancock at or near the subject properties, we are fully comfortable with you sharing it directly with ... other third parties seeking such information," he wrote.
Hancock's Attorney Says He Was Trying To Clear Hancock's Name
Hancock's spokeswoman, Amber Miller, told 7NEWS: "You are reading too much into this."
James said that he was trying to prove to the media that there is no evidence that Hancock was caught up in the escort investigation and to stop a story before the election. James said he mirrored media requests that had the language about whether the photos existed and the appeals process.
"Yours is a tortured interpretation" of the request, he said. "We had no knowledge (anything existed)."
James also said he added the language about not consenting to releasing the information because he wanted the information to go through him.
It's my job to make the request and make sure it was delivered to me first," he said. "Your interpretation is wrong. (I was) merely trying to clear this up."
Hancock staff and attorneys are also collecting cellphone records, bank statements, calendars and other documentation to clear his name, according to a letter they provided.
James talked to 7NEWS before CALL7 Investigators found the second email, and he did not return a call or text to discuss the June 6 email.
Hancock Condemns 7NEWS' Story
Late Thursday, the Hancock campaign released a statement condemning the 7NEWS story.
"KMGH aired a story tonight with several unsubstantiated and false claims," the statement said. "We are disappointed KMGH chose to air such unsubstantiated claims."
The statement said the campaign was trying to cooperate with the media with their requests, but the statement did not address why the attorney was requesting that any negative information, if found, should be withheld.
7NEWS Filed Open Records Request For Escort Service Surveillance
Denver police assisted the Internal Revenue Service when Denver Players was being investigated and raided in 2008. The IRS filed a federal tax evasion case against Denver Players owner Brenda Stewart. She's also charged with racketeering, witness tampering and money laundering. Evidence collected by Denver police is part of the case evidence.
7NEWS also sent an open records request seeking, "any videotapes, photographs or any other surveillance or evidence held by the Denver Police Department relating to Michael Hancock, his vehicle and any residence under surveillance as part of the Denver Players investigation."
In response to 7NEWS' open records request, the city's Department of Safety released information that, if not unprecedented, was certainly unusual. The city said it would not be in the public's interest to release evidence during an active investigation, even if it existed. This is a common response when there is an active prosecution in federal court, in this case relating to the Denver Players investigation. Despite this, the police department revealed to 7NEWS that in the case of Hancock, it held no videotapes or photographs related to the escort service investigation.
The following is the response to the 7NEWS open records request:
"Evidence obtained from the joint federal and local investigation and surveillance into the Denver Players is part of the current federal criminal prosecution against Brenda Stewart by the Department of Justice. The law enforcement and prosecution interest in preserving the integrity of the criminal justice process and the defendants right to a fair trial outweigh any public purpose to be served by the release of evidence which was gathered during the investigation while the case is pending. It would be contrary to the public interest to release evidence obtained from an investigation during the prosecution of the defendant. However, there are no "videotapes, photographs or any other surveillance or evidence held by the Denver Police Department relating to Michael Hancock, his vehicle and any residence under surveillance as part of the Denver Players investigation."
Clearly this helped Hancock manage the story prior to the election.
7NEWS Investigating Contents Of 'Black Book'
7NEWS has been investigating the contents of client lists, appointment logs, schedule books and credit card receipts that Scottie Ewing, the former owner of the Denver Players escort service, has said were preserved from his business. Those documents make up the "black book" of information from the escort service.
Before it was raided in 2008, Ewing sold Denver Players to Brenda Stewart, but said he retained business records.
Hancock's personal cellphone number and his name -- misspelled Handcock -- appear on the phone list. His phone number and first name appear on three different appointment logs.
Ewing claimed that the phone numbers were essential to his business because they verified the client's identity, regardless of what name was being used by the client.
"The numbers get entered into the database anytime a customer calls to use the service," said Ewing.
"How did you verify the number?" asked Zelinger.
"They would call in wanting to book an appointment. We would always call the number back to verify that someone did answer it and that it was not a fake appointment," said Ewing.
"The other method that we used are services similar to a company called Intelius, where we would enter a phone number, pay a certain fee and get any kind of information about that person we wanted to. All we really wanted was employment history -- where they worked, and first or last names were important," said Ewing.
Sources said the documents with Hancock's name and phone number exist in law enforcement files.
Hancock: Escort Implication "Categorically Untrue"
The documents that show Hancock's cellphone number is linked to a man who was a client of the service, but Hancock vehemently denied having ever been a client of an escort or prostitution service, including Denver Players.
"Is that your cellphone number in these documents?" asked Zelinger.
"That's my cellphone number in those documents. I can tell you, I've had that cellphone number since 2001," said Hancock. "Anyone could put that number in there. I don't know how it ended up there. But I will tell you again, it's absolutely untrue."
The phone log that refers to Hancock's phone number is specific. It contains a notation in a computer printout:
"Calls from diff #'s (pay ph.) RN Mike Handcock - Wrks4City."
Ewing told 7NEWS the term "pay ph." referred to a pay phone and that "RN" denotes "real name." And in the log, the real name is noted as "Mike Handcock." It also notes the client works for the city.
Even though the client apparently used pay phones to book appointments, the cellphone number linked to Hancock was used for verification That number showed up in the appointment logs on three different days with three different women.
The logs show:
- On "4/16," there was a 2 p.m. appointment with an escort. The client paid $275 in cash for one hour at an in-house escort location.
- On "5/16," there was a 12:30 p.m. appointment with an escort who had a different name. The client paid $275 in cash for one hour at an in-house escort location.
- On "10/17," there was a 12:30 p.m. appointment with yet a third escort. The client paid $300 in cash for one hour at an in-house escort location.
Multiple sources close to the escort service told 7NEWS that $275 or $300 appointments could include anything from cuddling to sexual intercourse.
Black Book Reported Stolen Monday Night
The documents that make up the "black book" of the Denver Players business were reported stolen Monday night by Ewing. The documents had been shown to 7NEWS last Friday, the same day Hancocks lawyers made the request to the Denver Police. 7NEWS was able to record video of the documents on the condition they would not be recognizable on camera.
The police report details that someone cut a hole in the back screen door of a southwest Denver home. Ewing reported that between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. Monday, the burglars knocked out a plexiglass tile and unlocked the door. The burglars then went to an upstairs office and stole a computer and a bin containing miscellaneous files containing sensitive materials.
Hancock: Documents Falsified
"I know very clearly that 100 percent of all the allegations that you have, even that document that you're holding, is a falsified document," said Hancock.
"A falsified document -- do you believe it was made up?" asked Zelinger.
"Absolutely. Categorically untrue," said Hancock.
"You believe these were manipulated within those documents?" asked Zelinger.
"If there are documents that have my name on them, a tie to an escort service, they're categorically untrue. They are falsified because I have never used a service, have never gone to a service or a place where those services are being offered," said Hancock.
Former Escort Service Owner Details Business Documents
7NEWS examined hundreds of documents linked to the escort service. None have years associated with them by design, according to Ewing. He said the documents that indicate appointments for Hancock were from 2004, 2005 or 2006.
"The documents that show Michael Hancock was a client -- are they accurate? Are they factual documents?" asked Zelinger.
"The documents are accurate, extremely accurate. There is not one phone number that is on that list that did not call in to use the services at some point," said Ewing. "The service never took or booked appointments from blocked phone lines. People had to call from a real phone number. Putting random phone numbers onto that database would have compromised the issue of screening the customers."
"Why release these documents in the days leading up to the Denver mayor's election?" asked Zelinger.
"After vaguely paying attention to some of the TV ads that were on -- that were aired for the campaigns -- someone that is running on a platform of their personal story and values and family is somewhat hypocritical," said Ewing. "I would think that the general public, the majority of them anyway, would think the same -- that it is inappropriate behavior for someone to preach one thing while doing something on the other hand."
Ewing has a criminal record, including arrests on assault charges and conviction on a federal tax evasion charge.
"There's just too much information to make up," said Ewing. "It's just an immense amount of material. Almost five years worth of material: directions to customers' houses, credit card numbers that are real credit card numbers, phone numbers that go to people's phones."
"Why was it so important to be able to identify what their employment was? Why did you try to figure out if they were law enforcement or not?" asked Zelinger.
"We tried to find out if they were law enforcement or not because what we were doing was illegal," said Ewing.
Scottie Ewing Reaches Plea Agreement With Feds
Ewing agreed to a plea deal in U.S. District Court on Feb. 16. As part of his agreement, Ewing will pay $77,614 in restitution. He also is on house arrest for six months and on supervised release for three years. He will also testify in the trial of Stewart, the woman to whom he admits to selling the Denver Players business.
None of Ewing's documents were ever taken into evidence by Denver police, the IRS or the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Similar documents linked to Stewart's involvement in Denver Players are in possession of the U.S. Attorney's Office as part of her federal court case. In April, Stewart's attorney filed a motion that she would plead guilty to the first count against her, tax evasion. A court date has been set for July.
No clients of the Denver Players have ever been prosecuted.
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