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Judge dismisses illegal voting case against state Sen. Pete Lee

A judge on Friday dismissed an indictment that alleged Colorado state Sen. Pete Lee voted illegally in a March 2020 election.

District Court Judge Eric Bentley found that false evidence unwittingly submitted by the El Paso County district attorney was central to a grand jury’s decision to indict Lee on a felony charge.

When Bentley announced his decision, Lee reached across the bar to grasp his wife’s hand.

“I’m very relieved at the decision, and I’m very impressed with the detailed preparation and analysis of the court,” Lee said after the decision.

Lee, an El Paso Democrat, was indicted on Aug. 3. In September, court records showed an investigator with the El Paso County District Attorney’s Office unknowingly gave false information to the grand jury while seeking the indictment.

Lee’s attorney, David Kaplan, immediately called for the dismissal of the case. To allow the indictment to stand would be “to make a mockery of the use of the grand jury,” he said then.

Prosecutors initially sought to indict Lee for votes cast in November 2019 and March 2020 elections. In both elections, he voted from a Colorado Springs home in Senate District 11, which he represents. Prosecutors alleged he actually lived in a home in Senate District 12.

The grand jury declined to indict him over the November 2019 vote, but did indict him over the March 2020 vote.

In explaining the reason for his decision to dismiss the indictment, Bentley noted the only significant item on a timeline between the two elections was a change of address form Lee filed with the Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel — but the office gave the wrong year to the district attorney’s office.

Lee had moved to the central District 12 home in the spring. He filed that change of address months after the March election.

That incorrect information, Bentley reasoned, “gave the grand jury great reason to differentiate” between allegations it declined to indict on and allegations it did indict over. He reiterated that this was not the fault of the district attorney and that no one alleged the office committed intentional wrongdoing.

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