Last week, Terry Maketa was indicted on nine charges, including six felonies. Less than two years ago, Maketa was the sheriff of El Paso County in Colorado and a powerful Republican “rising star” within local politics.
Along with Former Sheriff Maketa, Former Undersheriff Paula Presley and Former Sheriff’s Office Commander Juan “John” San Agustin were also indicted by the same grand jury. Presley faces the same charges as Maketa, while San Agustin faces two felony charges.
Maketa and Presley were both charged with extortion, conspiracy to commit extortion, tampering with a witness or victim, conspiracy to commit tampering with a witness or victim, second degree kidnapping, false imprisonment, and three separate counts of first degree official misconduct. San Agustin was also included on the kidnapping and false imprisonment charges. A PDF of the grand jury’s indictment can be found here.
The criminal investigation, led by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, turned up wide-ranging allegations involving abuses of power and reprisals against political rivals. Among the charges leveled at the three were that they conspired to force a domestic violence victim to recant her story to protect a deputy she accused of punching her – eventually causing her arrest and wrongful incarceration.
In another alleged scheme, Maketa threatened to pull a $5.2 million contract with the jail’s healthcare provider unless the company fired an employee who refused to run Presley’s aborted campaign for sheriff in 2013. The sheriff, who is married, was accused by subordinates of having an affair with Presley, which the pair have denied.
The grand jury also found that Maketa and Presley led a series of internal investigations in 2013 that accused or sought to accuse sheriff’s employees of stealing an internal affairs file belonging to then-sheriff’s candidate Bill Elder – igniting a controversy that threatened to end Elder’s political hopes and instead put the candidate of Maketa’s favor into office.
The grand jury panel met in secret at the El Paso County courthouse in a process overseen by prosecutors with the 18th Judicial District, comprising Arapaho, Elbert, Lincoln and Douglas counties. District Attorney George Brauchler declined to say how many people were on the panel, how many times they met, or what the final split was on the nine counts.
The county has paid more than $300,000 in claims against Maketa and other former Sheriff’s Office employees. Another $400,000 had been paid in fees for financial and personnel investigations and for the three Sheriff’s Office commanders put on paid leave.
Even though they are facing numerous felonies, their bail was set at just $10,000. All three of them have posted that bond and are currently free awaiting trial.
Along with various financial improprieties, at the heart of those charges is a case in which members of the El Paso Sheriff’s Office at Maketa’s direction (just doing their job) caused the girlfriend of a deputy to be arrested after she reported being assaulted by that deputy in order to cover up for him.
A woman’s face and jawline swelled – allegedly from a punch – and her arm showed bruises.
She blamed it on violent beatings at the hands of her boyfriend – but a month later, she was the one in jail, court documents show.
In 2013, to protect a deputy, then-El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa directed a domestic violence victim to change her story and say she was the aggressor, a grand jury found in indicting the former sheriff and two others on Wednesday. Maketa then stood by as the woman was arrested and wrongfully jailed.
The deputy’s girlfriend also said she had been dragged inside their house, as well as pushed and hit on her head over the previous four months, the affidavit said. Some bruises were visible, according to Kaiser’s report.
When Kaiser pressed (Deputy Travis) Garretson on the allegations, he said “it was possible” he hit his girlfriend the previous night, the affidavit said. He also admitted to leaving a string of obscenity-laced voicemails on her phone, including one where he threatened, “I know what you are doing, I will get you back.”
Garretson was arrested and booked into the El Paso County jail on suspicion of third-degree assault and harassment, both misdemeanors.
What followed, however, was a plot to place the blame on Garretson’s girlfriend, Kellie Trull, 45, according to the indictment.
Garretson asked Maketa for help keeping his job in light of his arrest, the indictment said.
The sheriff responded by telling Trull to claim responsibility for starting the fight, for which she would not be arrested, the grand jury found. Presley reiterated those instructions – and the promise Trull would not be arrested, the indictment said.
Kaiser, the same sheriff’s detective who detailed Trull’s swollen face and bruises a month earlier, took the woman’s new confession in September 2013.
However, key details appear to be missing from that affidavit – a document that law enforcement officers must use to justify arrests.
Those details include:
– No mention the couple had worked at the El Paso County jail when the altercation took place. Garretson was a deputy there and Trull worked for Correctional Healthcare Companies, which provided medical services at the jail, the indictment said.
– No mention that Trull followed her about-face confession with the claim that Maketa and Presley told her to recant her statement and accept blame for the fight.
The affidavit largely focused on Trull’s admission that she instigated almost every altercation with Garretson, leaving him scratched and bruised. She also claimed to have been drunk when she drove to a friend’s house, the affidavit said.
Trull was arrested and booked into the Douglas County jail on suspicion of harassment and driving under the influence. She was held more than 24 hours, the grand jury found. Maketa and Presley later assured Garretson that “this could help” him with his own case, the indictment said.
Three Sheriff’s Office employees – Bureau Chief Al Harmon, then-Sgt. Robert Jaworski and Kaiser – said they did not think Trull should have been arrested.
Kaiser said she was following orders. Jaworski said he feared for his job. Harmon denied ordering the arrest, but nevertheless expressed fear about disobeying orders. (Emphasis added.)
Incidentally, it was the combination of a sex scandal involving affairs Sheriff Maketa, who is married, was having with three female employees of the sheriff’s office, including Presley, and accusations of abusive treatments from other employees that started the whole investigation leading to those indictments.
And as is the usual case, a shirtless selfie ultimately led to his dramatic downfall.
For years, rumors circulated about improprieties in the Sheriff’s Office, but it was an article accompanied by a shirtless selfie of Maketa on the front page of The Gazette that brought to light accusations of sexual misconduct and abusive treatment of employees.
The article outlined complaints written by three Sheriff’s Office commanders. The complaints, submitted May 12, 2014, to the Board of El Paso County Commissioners and the federal Equal Employment and Opportunity Commission, accused Maketa of discrimination, creating a hostile work environment and financial mismanagement.
The complaint named three women alleged to have had sexual relationships with Maketa: Undersheriff Paula Presley, Comptroller Dorene Cardarelle and the head of training for dispatchers, Tiffany Huntz. Maketa was married at the time. The Gazette also obtained more than 500 emails and text messages between Maketa, Cardarelle and Huntz.
The messages to Cardarelle were explicit.
“Wish you were with me” message accompanied this selfie of Sheriff Terry Maketa sent to a female subordinate.
In one message, a photo of a shirtless Maketa includes the message “wish you were with me.”
The fallout was immediate. County Commissioner Darryl Glenn said Maketa’s alleged affairs were the “worst-kept secret in town.” He said the rumors hadn’t been acted on because there had been no proof.
“This is the first time we’ve been presented evidence from people willing to put down their names,” Glenn said at a press 2014 conference.
Within a week, Commissioner Peggy Littleton called for Maketa to resign, citing a “lack of integrity” in his office.
Two days later, the commissioners gave him a unanimous “no confidence” vote, stating “we believe that leadership within the Sheriff’s Office has been compromised along with the functionality within the office.”
Maketa refused to step down, and instead ordered meetings to discuss employee morale. When one employee told The Gazette about the meetings, Maketa released the personnel file of the person he suspected of leaking the information.
In September 2014, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation confirmed it was investigating the sheriff with the help of the FBI. In December, Maketa submitted retirement paperwork, with plans to leave two weeks before the end of his third term.
Settlements given to Sheriff’s Office employees stand at more than $300,000, with another $400,000 spent by the county for investigations.
Remember folks, shirtless selfies are never a good idea. Neither is extortion, convincing domestic violence victims to lie in order to protect a deputy who beat her up and then kidnapping and falsely imprisoning her after she does so, or even cheating on your wife; especially with people you supervise at work. But above all else, if you feel the urge to take a shirtless selfie, fight it with every fiber of your being. Nothing good will come of it.