COLORADO SPRINGS – A former commander with the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office has filed a civil rights lawsuit against several high-ranking elected officials in El Paso County, including Sheriff Bill Elder and District Attorney Dan May, alongside officials in Arapahoe County and the Colorado Bureau of Investigations.
The suit filed on behalf of Juan “John” San Agustin seeks a jury trial and $10 million in damages related to his June 2016 indictment on felony charges of kidnapping and false imprisonment.
San Agustin is seeking damages based on “actual physical and emotional injuries and other damages and losses” plus “special damages, including loss of past and future income and loss of earning capacity.”
News5 reached out the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office. A spokesperson replied that the office does not comment on pending litigation.
District Attorney George Brauchler (18th District) said “It’s a sad fact of life that prosecutors are often sued for doing their jobs by persons who don’t like the fact that they were prosecuted. Such lawsuits are almost always legally frivolous and quickly dismissed by the courts. Anyone can file a lawsuit alleging anything they want. This lawsuit has no basis in fact or law. Once we are served with it, we will file a motion to dismiss, which we anticipate will be granted quickly by the court.” Brauchler added, “”I think that the public should be skeptical of a lawsuit when it was obviously sent to the media before the plaintiff’s lawyer saw fit to give us a copy. The first we heard of this was from a reporter.”
“I think that the public should be skeptical of a lawsuit when it was obviously sent to the media before the plaintiff’s lawyer saw fit to give us a copy. The first we heard of this was from a reporter.”
The grand jury that indicted San Agustin also handed down indictments against former Sheriff Terry Maketa and former Undersheriff Paula Presley. Presley was charged with extortion, conspiracy to commit extortion, tampering with a witness or victim, second-degree kidnapping, false imprisonment, and three counts of first-degree official misconduct.
All of the charges against San Agustin and Presley were dismissed after failed prosecutions of Maketa.
In 2017, a jury found Maketa not guilty of witness tampering, conspiracy to commit witness tampering and official misconduct. The remaining four charges, including extortion and conspiracy to commit extortion, resulted in a deadlock. A 2018 retrial had similar results.
In the 45-page suit, San Agustin outlines allegations surrounding incidents within the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office and between the District Attorneys in El Paso and Arapahoe County to manipulate evidence in order to have him indicted by the grand jury.
It starts with shocking allegations of misconduct and mishandling of the 2013 murder of Colorado Department of Corrections Director Tom Clements. The information contained in the suit is not relatively new as the claims were reported in Colorado media in early 2016.
The suit claims there was a warning of Clements’ life being in danger as he was targeted by members of the white supremacist gang “211 Crew” at the request of the Surenos Gang, but nothing was done. Clements was killed at his home in Monument by 211 Crew member Evan Ebel, who himself was killed in a shootout with authorities in Texas two days later.
The suit also claims that after Clements’ death District Attorney Dan May and Sheriff Bill Elder, but did nothing to go after the ringleaders. It continues by claiming there is a connection between inaction and the unsolved murder of DA May’s brother in 2008.
San Agustin’s suit says he continued to investigate Clements murder throughout 2013 and developed information for probable cause against gang leaders, but alleges May refused to allow charges to be filed.
From there, San Agustin claims all the events leading up to his indictment are connected to his investigation into the killing.
All of the defendants in the civil suit:
- El Paso County
- District Attorney Dan May
- Deputy District Attorney Shannon Gerhart
- El Paso County Sheriff Bill Elder
- El Paso County Undersheriff Joe Breister
- El Paso Legal Advisor Lisa Kirkman
- El Paso County Deputy Sheriff Robert Jaworski
- Colorado Bureau of Investigations
- Colorado Bureau of Investigation Agent Ralph Gagliardi
- Arapahoe County
- District Attorney George Brauchler
- Assistant District Attorney Mark Hurlbert
- Deputy District Attorney Grant Fevurly
- and 11 officers identified as ‘John Doe’