Court proceedings start for suspect in county embezzlement-case | SkyHiNews.com

Court proceedings start for suspect in county embezzlement-case

Grand County Court Judge Ben McClelland has set former Grand County Building Department employee Brigid Irish's trial-setting conference for Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2014. The new date will give Irish's defense time to review evidence before her trial. The Grand County Sheriff's Office issued an arrest warrant for Irish in May in relation to around $500,000 in misappropriated funds at the Grand County Building Department. Irish has been charged with one count of attempting to influence a public servant, 12 counts of forgery, and 915 counts of embezzlement.

Former Grand County Building Dept. employee arrested for embezzlement

HOT SULPHUR SPRINGS — An arrest warrant has been issued for former county building department employee Brigid Irish. Irish worked as an administrative assistant and handled money in the department from 2001 until she was suddenly terminated in November 2013. This is the first and only arrest made in the building department case so far, which involves $500,000 stolen over the course of 12 years. According to a press release issued by the Grand County Sheriff's Office, a warrant for Irish's arrest was issued on the afternoon of Tuesday, May 6. At around 4:50 p.m., Irish turned herself in and was booked in the Grand County Jail. Charges include four counts of theft, one count of attempting to influence a public servant, 12 counts of forgery, and 915 counts of embezzlement of public property. All these charges are directly related to the missing funds from the Grand County Building Department. Irish's Bond is set at $20,000. "We are not sure, but (it) looks like Ms. Irish will bond out tonight," Sheriff Rod Johnson said in an email at 5:47 p.m. on May 6. Leia Larsen can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19603. Interactive Timeline

Irish set to be arraigned in District Court

Brigid Irish will be back in District Court on Monday, June 22, when she appears before Judge Mary Hoak for arraignment. This is Irish's fourth scheduled appearance in District Court. Her case moved from County Court to District Court after the start of the New Year. Irish is a former Grand Count Building Department administrative assistant. She stands accused of misappropriating more than half a million dollars in Building Department funds during her tenure with the county. Irish was arrested in early May 2014. She is facing 915 counts of embezzlement of public property, 12 counts of forgery, four counts of theft and one count of attempt to influence a public servant. Irish first began working for the building department in 2001.

Building department suspect’s hearing continued

Former building department employee Brigid Irish's June 17 court appearance was continued to 8:45 a.m., July 8. The district attorney's office did not object to the continuance. Irish was arrested in May and charged with four counts of theft, one count of attempting to influence a public servant, 12 counts of forgery and 915 counts of embezzlement of public property. The charges stem from the misappropriation of more than $500,000 in funds from the Grand County Building Department over the course of 12 years.

Brigid Irish makes first District Court appearance

HOT SULPHUR SPRINGS — Brigid Irish, accused of misappropriating more than half a million dollars in Grand County Building Department funds, was in District Court for the first time Monday afternoon for an arraignment. Irish has previously been in Grand County Court on numerous occasions during the last year before Judge Ben McClelland. Following her waiving of a preliminary hearing in County Court, Irish's case was bound over to District Court for an appearance before Judge Mary Hoak. Irish's case will remain in District Court. Irish's legal counsel, William Frankfurt of the Frankfurt Law Offices in Denver, explained to Judge Hoak that the defense is still combing through the massive amount of discovery evidence provided by the prosecution. He explained a significant amount of the evidence requires examination by forensics and accounting specialists. Frankfurt requested a continuance on the case, which Judge Hoak granted. She stressed to all parties her desire to get the case moving forward as quickly as possible, pointing out the case is nearing the one-year point from the time it was first brought to court. Irish will be back in District Court for arraignment on Feb. 27. She is scheduled to appear at 10:45 a.m.

Irish out of prison, still in custody

Brigid Irish is out of prison, but is still in custody. Irish was released April 19 from the La Vista Correctional Facility in Pueblo and was transferred to the Garfield County Community Corrections facility in Rifle. She is currently being held as an offender in Garfield County and will become eligible for parole on July 19, 2018. If parole is not granted to Irish, she will be released on July 19, 2021, her mandatory release date per the Colorado Department of Corrections. Irish was arrested on May 6, 2014 on charges stemming from the embezzlement and misallocation of roughly $500,000 in Grand County Building Department funds. Prior to her arrest, Irish was an administrative assistant with the county's building department. Irish was initially charged with four counts of theft, one count of attempting to influence a public servant, 12 counts of forgery and 915 counts of embezzlement of public property. Under a plea agreement signed Dec. 18, 2015, Irish pleaded guilty to one count of theft, one count of attempt to influence a public official and one count of embezzlement of public property. She was sentenced March 2016 to six years incarceration with the Colorado Department of Corrections. Officials from the Colorado Department of Corrections said Irish was not transferred to community corrections based on her length of incarceration. Instead, to enter the community corrections, Irish was required to apply to join the program. Her application was then presented to a community corrections board that made the final determination. Irish's status within community corrections means she is still formally within the state's corrections system and is still considered an offender; though, the state no longer refers to incarcerated individuals as inmates. While serving the remainder of her sentence in community corrections, Irish will be able to seek employment and will be allowed to leave the community corrections facility for her work duties. Community Corrections offenders are subject to contraband searches and while they have expanded amenities, their access to those amenities, such as TV, is restricted to specific times. The State Department of Corrections described community corrections as a sentencing or placement alternative, in lieu of prison incarceration, for felony offenders.

Brigid Irish plea agreement presented to District Court

A plea agreement was presented in District Court Wednesday afternoon in the Brigid Irish Grand County Building Department case. The agreement was presented to Judge Mary Hoak by the district attorney's office and by Irish's defense counsel. She did not accept the agreement Wednesday afternoon, pending further review and comment from all parties. Judge Hoak openly expressed her doubts about the agreement as it was presented. "I'm not going to accept this today and I may not accept it at all," she said. "I am having a hard time with probation and the restitution figure." While many aspects of the proposed agreement were covered in court Wednesday, the full details were not disclosed publicly. The agreement itself is not open to the public for review unless or until it is accepted. Judge Hoak is under no obligation to accept the agreement. If Judge Hoak chooses not to accept the plea agreement as presented, the case will continue moving through the legal system toward trial. If this plea agreement is rejected the DA's office, Irish's legal counsel can attempt to develop a different plea agreement more amenable to the court to be presented at a later date. The details provided in court Wednesday highlighted a proposal wherein Irish would plead guilty to three of the felony charges and one misdemeanor charge against her, resulting in the dismissal of 928 other charges. The proposal calls for Irish to pay a restitution amount of $431,000 and spend 32 years on supervised probation and also requires 400 service hours. Under the proposed agreement Irish would serve no prison time unless she violates the terms of her probation. The agreement makes Irish subject to 12 years in prison for violating the terms of her probation. Irish's defense counsel, Public Defender Chris Hamsher, informed Judge Hoak that the 45 year-old Irish has no previous criminal history, save for a speeding ticket she received during her teenage years. She stands accused of misappropriating more than $600,000 in Grand County Building Department funds during her tenure as an administrative assistant in that office. The funds Irish is accused of misappropriating were largely checks for building permits. She first began working for the building department in 2001. According to the charges against her Irish is alleged to have taken some of the funds from the department personally, while destroying other checks outright, allegedly neither cashing nor depositing them. When Hamsher, presented those facts as part of the reasoning for the proposed plea agreement ,Judge Hoak responded, explaining she did not consider that factor particularly important. "By discarding them (the checks) she denied the county the benefit of those funds for services they were providing," said Judge Hoak. While the restitution figure presented Wednesday was $431,000 the total Irish is accused of misappropriating is $649,106.90. Since the funds were first discovered missing Grand County government has requested people whose checks were destroyed or never deposited to reissue the checks to the county. The difference between the restitution figure for Irish, $431,000, and the total amount of missing funds, $649,106.90, represents the amount of money recovered by the county since discovering the missing funds, though the figure continues to change as more checks are received. The final restitution figure has not been settled as the DA's office works with the county to verify exactly how much of the missing funds have already been re-received by the department. The county filed an insurance claim earlier this year that resulted in a $316,000 payment to the county, according to county officials. Judge Hoak asked Ashley Shelton, the prosecutor present for the DA's office, if the victim in the case, Grand County, had been informed of the details of the agreement. Shelton informed Judge Hoak the county had been apprised of the details of the plea but she did not know their official position regarding the agreement. "What is the county's position on this?" Judge Hoak asked Shelton. "They are the victim. I want to know what they want. If they don't want to be heard or appear, that is fine, but I would like to know that." Judge Hoak described how she was hesitant to grant probation in the case but realized it would be difficult for Irish to pay restitution to the county if she is serving time behind bars. Judge Hoak explained she wanted to know what was more important to the county, restitution or incarceration. "It is unlikely that I will take this deal, but I will consider it," Judge Hoak said. "If I had to choose at this moment I would say no. Let's keep talking." Judge Hoak set Irish's next appearance in court for July 29 at 1 p.m. and said she would make her decision on the plea agreement before Aug. 3.

DA’s office supports judge substitution in Brigid Irish case

The 14th Judicial District Attorney's Office has filed a response to the Motion for Substitution of Judge in the Brigid Irish case. Irish's Public Defender Chris Hamsher filed the motion on Sept. 28 effectively asking Judge Hoak to recuse herself from the case. Following submittal of the motion the DA's office was given 21 days to file a response to the motion. The DA's response was submitted to the Court on Oct. 19. The four-page document, which is part of the public record, is supportive of the motion filed by Irish's Public Defender and calls for Judge Hoak to recuse herself, stating, "The People believe good cause has been shown in that the Court's attitudes about the case were not fully apparent until the Court's rejection of the plea agreement on July 31, 2015." Later the response states, "It (the Court) should take this action in an abundance of caution to protect itself from claims of bias and to insulate the record on appeal against claims" of "an appearance of interest or bias." In a subsection of the response titled, "Avoided the Appearance of Interest or Prejudice", the DA's motion states, "The court sentenced Matthew Holmes for stealing drugs from an EMS vehicle for his personal use and replaced them with saline … The Court sentenced Holmes to felony probation of four years and ninety days jail despite the fact that he physically endangered hundreds of lives." The response goes on to state, "Certainly the size and duration of Ms. Irish's theft was significant, but no person was endangered. A reasonable person could question how Court could impose a probationary sentence in the Holmes case yet demand the possibility of a prison sentence in this case, especially in light of the eighteen months of county jail that can be ordered." In the Background section of the response the DA's offices discusses the previously presented plea agreement, which Judge Hoak denied on July 31. The response states that part of the plea agreement presented to Judge Hoak in July was an agreement from Irish to plead guilty to Abuse of Public Records charges, "exposing her to eighteen months in the county jail at the discretion of the court." The response calls the sentencing between Holmes and Irish incongruous and states that the incongruity, "appears to be because of the following factors: a. This case has received significant public attention, and justified outrage, for the theft, as well as the apparent lack of supervision and safeguards on the part of the county government. b. The judicial officer presiding over this Court resides in Grand County. c. The same judicial officer stands for retention in the 14th Judicial District in 2016. Notably, Grand County voters declined to retain a county judge in 2014." After DA's office filed their response to the Motion for Substitution the Irish's Defense Counsel was given an additional seven days to reply to the DA's response. No reply was entered by Hamsher and the Motion is now awaiting a decision from Judge Hoak. The decision to substitute a different Judge or not is Judge Hoak's to make. Now that the DA's response has been filed and the timeframe for a reply from the Defense has lapsed Judge Hoak could rule on the Motion at any time, meaning the motion is "ripe" in court terminology. The next scheduled Court proceedings in the Irish case are set for Friday, Nov. 6, at 9:30 a.m. for an arraignment. Irish is accused of misappropriating more than $600,000 in Grand County Building Department funds while working as an administrative assistant in that office. The funds Irish is accused of misappropriating were primarily checks submitted to the county for building permits. She first began working for the Building Department in 2001.

Suspect in Grand County Building Dept. case waives right to hearing

The ongoing legal tribulations of Brigid Irish continued on Monday, Nov. 3, when Irish appeared by phone with her attorney in Grand County Court before Judge Ben McClelland for a status conference. During the conference Irish's attorney waived her right to a preliminary hearing, which had previously been scheduled for Monday, Nov. 17. Irish, who is the sole defendant in the case of the Grand County Building Department scandal, will be back in County Court on Nov. 17 to appear in person and waive her right formally. The court requires individuals to appear in person to waive such rights. During preliminary hearings county judges review evidence in criminal cases and determine if it is appropriate for the case to be bound over to District Court. When defendants waive their right to a preliminary hearing, cases are automatically bound over to District Court. According to officials in the Grand County Combined Courts Office, the Irish case will officially be bound over to District Court following her appearance on Nov. 17. Once the case has been bound over to District Court, Irish will be arraigned in the 14th Judicial District. No date has been set at this time for her arraignment in District Court. Grand County officials first noticed that more than $500,000 was missing from the county building department in October 2013. An investigation resulted in allegations that Irish had kept cash and destroyed checks for building permits during her tenure. Irish was subsequently charged preliminarily with four counts of theft, one count of attempting to influence a public official, 12 counts of forgery and more than 900 counts of embezzlement.

Brigid Irish arraignment scheduled for Sept. 28

Brigid Irish will be back in District Court on Monday, Sept. 28, for a scheduled arraignment. Irish last appeared in Court on Sept. 2. During that appearance District Attorney Brett Barkey informed Judge Mary Hoak that a new plea agreement has been offered to Irish in the case. Irish's Public Defender Chris Hamsher requested a continuance from Judge Hoak to review the details of the new agreement. The details of the new plea agreement were not discussed during Irish's last court appearance. The specific details of plea agreements remain confidential unless and until they are accepted by both the defendant and the Court. Another plea agreement was previously offered in the case in early July. Judge Hoak rejected that plea in late July. Irish has spent the last year working her way through the legal system in Grand County. The former administrative assistant with the Grand County Building Department stands accused of misappropriating more than $600,000 in department funds.