EL PASO COUNTY, Colo. — The republican candidate for sheriff in El Paso County will walk away with a warning from the 10th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, after formal complaints were filed with the Office of the District Attorney for the Fourth Judicial District.
District Attorney Michael Allen requested the investigation move to District Attorney Jeff Chostner who issued a warning letter on Tuesday.
Those complaints focused on the manner in which Joe Roybal collected signatures to make it onto the ballot.
A February Facebook post that appeared on Dragonman’s Gun Store’s page (now removed), showed a video of gun range owner Mel Bernstein with Roybal, the current El Paso County Undersheriff.
In the video Bernstein, known to community members as “Dragon Man,” offered a $5 discount to his gun range to anyone who would sign Roybal’s petition. Roybal was tasked with collecting 1,000 signatures in order to guarantee a spot on the republican ballot.
According to state law, candidates must report any in-kind contributions made in support of their campaign.
A state statute also says, in part, that each petition must be sumbitted with “a statement that the affiant has not paid or will not in the future pay and that the affiant believes that no other person has paid or will pay, directly or indirectly, any money or other thing of value to any signer for the purpose of inducing or causing the signer to sign the petition.”
In a response to the release of the Facebook video earlier this month, Roybal said, in part, by statement:
“At the time of the video, I was not aware the discount would be offered for each signature obtained. I was surprised and did not know he was going to make the statement; it was not planned nor coordinated with me.“
You can read Roybal’s full statement here.
According to Chostner, 43 signatures were collected during Roybal’s event at Dragonman’s.
He reported eliminating those signatures would not affect Roybal’s ability to get his name on the ballot. But there are ethical issues as well.
“Election law does not allow the 43 signatures to be stricken, because the complaints against you and Mr. Bernstein come well after the five-day challenge period. It is unfortunate that the statute does not include a time period for complaints to be filed when the alleged allegations are discovered,” Chostner wrote.
He said, because of the, he does not believe a jury would convict Roybal. But he still condemned the event at Dragonman’s.
“As one seeking a position in law enforcement, your first priority is to uphold the law. I believe you have significantly strayed from that responsibility,” he wrote.
Chostner said he would “look to institute criminal action” should further transgressions occur.