U.S. Attorney’s Office Joins Effort to Crackdown on Violent Crime in Denver

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FILE PHOTO: American flag waves outside the U.S. Department of Justice Building in Washington

DENVER – The United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Colorado joined the Downtown Denver Partnership, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock and the City and County of Denver, the Denver Police Department, the Colorado Attorney General, and RTD to announce an infusion of resources to address both immediate health and safety concerns in the center city while targeting root problems and long-term solutions.

Comments from U.S. Attorney Cole Finegan as made at Public Safety News Conference in Denver on November 10, 2022:

Good afternoon. The United States Attorney’s Office here in Colorado is proud to be part of this effort to address the rise in violent crime, here in downtown Denver and across the state. When I came into this role nearly a year ago, we tried to figure out, is there a way that our office can help? What we have come up with is a creative and innovative solution to work together and help each other make Denver a safer place to live, work and visit.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office prosecutes the most serious offenders, who are most involved with violent crime in our community. We are focusing on violent criminals who carry or use firearms. Just yesterday, two separate federal juries returned guilty verdicts for felons who were caught with guns.

State differs from federal law and allows certain felons to still carry weapons. Federal law makes it illegal for a felon to possess a firearm or ammunition. Violators can face up to ten years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Federal law also creates mandatory minimum sentences of between five and ten years in prison for possessing, brandishing, or discharging a firearm during the commission of violent crimes or drug crimes.

We have powerful tools in federal law, and we are not afraid to use them.

Take for example the gunman who forced his way into Children’s Hospital in September. Initially, he was charged at the state level, but was released on bond. We were able to charge him under federal law, and he is being held in jail pending his trial. He is charged with being a felon in possession of a gun, and possession of a machine gun.

Another example from just down the street: Two felons were involved in a shootout in September of 2018, at the corner of 15th and Market. An innocent bystander was hit and seriously wounded by the gunfire. Both defendants were charged with being felons in possession of firearms and ammunition. Armando Durete was convicted after trial and Nickie Rico pled guilty to the charge. Rico was sentenced to more than 8 years in prison. Durete was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

So, we have a federal law that will allow us to charge, detain, and prosecute felons and other dangerous criminals who are caught with a gun. But we have a challenge in making full use of federal law.  We have a dedicated team of prosecutors working on violent crime, and we want to do more. Now, thanks to the Mayor, City Attorney, and funding from the Denver City Council, we are in the process of hiring four special prosecutors, who will be designated as “Special Assistant United States Attorneys”. These additional prosecutors will help us make sure we have the resources to charge as many of these dangerous criminals, as possible.

This should send a powerful message to criminals: We are bringing federal criminal charges against felons with guns and criminals using guns in crimes of violence or drug trafficking. Additional special prosecutors for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, funded by the City and County of Denver, will help us make sure we take these violent criminals off the streets and send them to prison for a long time.

We appreciate you helping us spread the message.