May 27, 2018

Colorado Supreme Court: Owner-Director of Nonprofit School is Not “Public Employee”

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in People v. Rediger on Monday, April 30, 2018.

Public Employee—Invited Error—Waiver—Constructive Amendment—Plain Error Review.

This case required the supreme court to decide two questions: (1) whether the owner–director of a nonprofit school regulated by various governmental entities is a “public employee” within the meaning of C.R.S. § 18-9-110(1), and (2) whether respondent waived or invited error with respect to a constructive amendment claim when his defense counsel stated that he was “satisfied” with the proposed jury instructions, notwithstanding the fact that the elemental instruction on the charge of interference with the staff, faculty, or students of an educational institution tracked C.R.S. § 18-9-109(1)(b) rather than C.R.S. § 18-9-109(2), which was the subsection charged in the information.

As to the first question, the court concluded that “public employee” means an employee of a governmental entity, and therefore an employee of a nonprofit school is not a public employee. Accordingly, the court agreed with the court of appeals division’s decision that respondent’s conviction for interference with a public employee in a public building cannot stand.

As to the second question, the court concluded that respondent neither waived nor invited error with respect to his constructive amendment claim because the record does not indicate that he or his counsel either intentionally relinquished a known right or deliberately injected the erroneous jury instruction as a matter of trial strategy. The court instead construed respondent’s general acquiescence to the instructions as a forfeiture and, reviewing for plain error, concluded that the constructive amendment of respondent’s charging document constituted plain error necessitating a new trial.

The court affirmed in part and reversed in part the court of appeals division’s judgment.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Self-Employed Director of Private School Not “Public Employee”

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Rediger on Thursday, March 12, 2015.

Public Employee—Public Building—CRS § 18-9-110(1)—Jury Instructions—Waiver.

Believing that Rediger had stolen hay from their property, the victim and her husband asked the district attorney to bring charges against him. While school was in session, Rediger drove to the Rocky Mountain Youth Academy (Academy), where the victim worked as owner–director, to discuss the charges. Redigerwas convicted by a jury of interfering with a public employee in a public building, in violation of CRS § 18-9-110(1), and interfering with staff, faculty, or students of an educational institution, in violation of CRS § 18-9-109(2).

On appeal, Rediger argued that because the victim was not a “public employee” and the Academy was not a “public building,” his conviction cannot stand under CRS § 18-9-110(1). The record does not show that any governmental entity had the right to hire or fire Academy employees. In addition, because the victim testified that she drew her salary from the budget that she controlled, the state did not have any direct control over her salary. Moreover, the record does not contain sufficient evidence for any reasonable juror to conclude that the Academy was a public building. Because these errors were obvious, the trial court erred by not sua sponte dismissing the charge.

Rediger also argued that the prosecution made an improper constructive amendment of the second charge by tendering an elemental instruction under CRS § 18-9-109(1)(b) rather than under CRS §18-9-109(2), as charged in the information. Because Rediger’s trial counsel affirmatively agreed to the jury instructions, he waived any right to appeal the instructions. Accordingly, the judgment of conviction on the § 18-9-110(1) count was reversed, and the judgment of conviction on the § 18-9-109(2) count was affirmed.

Summary and full case available here, courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Private Employee Working at Public Building Not Considered “Public Official or Employee” in Criminal Context

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Moore on Thursday, June 6, 2013.

Impeding a Public Official or Employee—Private Employer—CRS § 18-9-110(2).

Defendant appealed the judgment of conviction entered on a jury verdict finding him guilty of impeding a public official or employee in a public building. The judgment was vacated.

Defendant, an attorney, injured a 61-year-old woman security guard when he forcibly passed through the security checkpoint at the Denver City and County Building. The victim was employed by a private security company.

The People argued that the trial court’s denial of defendant’s motion to dismiss was rendered moot by the subsequent trial and was no longer reviewable. However, the trial court construed the statute to permit defendant’s prosecution under the statute as a matter of law. The jury was bound by this determination. Therefore, the jury’s verdict did not render moot the denial of defendant’s motion to dismiss or preclude him from challenging his conviction on appeal.

Defendant contended that his judgment of conviction should be vacated because the victim was not a “public employee,” which is a prerequisite to establishing criminal liability under the statute. Because the victim was not a public employee, but was employed by a private security company, defendant’s conviction under CRS § 18-9-110(2) was vacated.

Summary and full case available here.