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N.Y. lawyer plans suit in Ramsey case
Man wants to force D.A. to act on evidence against mother
Tuesday, November 18, 1997
A New York victims' rights lawyer said he'll file a lawsuit today against Boulder County District Attorney Alex Hunter, hoping to force the prosecution of Patsy Ramsey in connection with the nearly year-old unsolved murder of her 6-year-old daughter, JonBenet.
The attorney, Darnay Hoffman, says he collected evidence from four handwriting experts that proves Patsy Ramsey wrote the 21/2 -page, handwritten ransom note she claimed to have found the morning of Dec. 26. JonBenet was found beaten, sexually assaulted and strangled that afternoon in the family's basement.
Hoffman was the defense lawyer for subway gunman Bernhard Goetz in a New York civil trial.
Claiming the prosecutor's office has enough evidence to prosecute the child's mother but won't move forward, Hoffman plans to use a rarely used Colorado law to sue Hunter for the "unjustified refusal of the district attorney to prosecute any person for the crime," according to the complaint.
"Basically, I have to blow the whistle on Alex Hunter," Hoffman said Monday, adding it is the only way to hold a district attorney accountable.
The district attorney's office declined to comment on the case, spokeswoman Suzanne Laurion said.
If Hoffman is successful in the lawsuit, a judge could order charges to be filed and could appoint a special prosecutor to take over the case, said Colorado Attorney General Gale Norton. A judge also could dismiss the complaint outright, refusing to order a hearing.
"It certainly would be surprising if it goes very far," Norton said. "The first step is to decide whether the district attorney has refused to prosecute. What everyone has said is there is still an ongoing investigation."
Although Colorado law allows a citizen to file suit in such a case, Boulder legal expert David Harrison questioned whether the law provides for a non- Colorado citizen to file suit. In any event, it is unlikely a judge will decide whether to throw out or hear any case until hearing a formal response from the defendant (Hunter), which could take up to 20 days, Harrison said.
Hunter has said the parents are "a focus" of the investigation, but has stressed the inquiry continues and all angles are being pursued. There have been no arrests and no suspects named in the 6-year-old`s death.
Hoffman said he has tried to submit the handwriting evidence to Hunter`s office several times, but was unsuccessful.
"Quite frankly, I am sick and tired of it," he said.
Along with the filing of the complaint, Hoffman will submit more than 40 pages of exhibits, magazine and newspaper articles. Hoffman frequently faxes information to the news media, including letters he`s written to Hunter and clips from New York Post gossip columnist Cindy Adams. He also frequently calls Denver talk radio shows to discuss the Ramsey case.
The experts Hoffman cites are Denver lawyer Thomas Miller, National Association of Document Examiners Director David Liebman and court-certified documents examiner Cina Wong.
The handwriting analysis of an unnamed person contracted by the FBI will be withheld because of its potential to damage the investigation if released publicly, Hoffman said.
N.Y. attorney sues D.A. Hunter
Colorado statute may force filing of charges in JonBenet case

Thursday, November 20, 1997

A New York attorney hopes a state law used successfully only once in Colorado to bring a killer to justice will crack the nearly yearlong JonBenet Ramsey case.

Darnay Hoffman sued Boulder County District Attorney Alex Hunter on Wednesday in District Court in an attempt to force Hunter to file charges in the Ramsey case.

Seven years ago, Laura Moody, of Hot Sulphur Springs, sued former Fremont County District Attorney Roger Larsen after he failed to file charges against the man accused of shooting her brother, 30-year-old James Dowell, five times, according to the Daily Record in Canon City.

Larsen allegedly made comments to area law enforcement officials that it was a case of "one dirt bag shooting another dirt bag" and noted that the accused, Damon Moss, was acting in self-defense against Dowell, who was unarmed but known as a fierce fighter. Larsen denied making the "dirt bag" comment, but area investigators were prepared to testify against him.

The rarely used state statute in question can be invoked by "unjustified refusal of the prosecuting attorney to prosecute any person for the crime." Under the law, a judge can order the prosecutor to explain his actions. If the judge finds the prosecutor`s reasons to be "arbitrary and capricious" and without reasonable excuse, the judge can order the prosecutor to move forward on the case.

In the end, Moss pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the Dec. 23, 1984, murder after charges were brought by a new Fremont County District Attorney.

"I felt like it was a real shame that a private citizen had to force the district attorney to do his job, but nevertheless, it`s good that we have that option available," Moody said Wednesday.

Moody`s attorney, Jack DiCola, now the Grand County Attorney, remembers being treated with hostility.

"I got home-towned big-time when I got there," DiCola said. "I was some guy from out of town and the judge wasn`t going to let me do anything. The district attorney wouldn`t give me discovery."

DiCola successfully appealed the judge`s ruling.

"The Court of Appeals made (the statute) work," DiCola said. "It worked really well, and justice was done in Canon City."

Legal experts, however, doubt the suit filed Wednesday against Hunter will have the same successful outcome. They say there could be a problem because Hoffman is not a Colorado resident. Additionally, it would be difficult to prove that Hunter has refused to prosecute because the case is still being investigated by Boulder police.

Hoffman, one of famed attorney Barry Scheck`s students at Cardozo Law School, accused Hunter of refusing to prosecute JonBenet`s mother, Patsy. He said handwriting samples reviewed by four experts, including Denver attorney and handwriting analyst Thomas Miller, show a clear link to the 2 1/2-page note Patsy said she found Dec. 26, 1996. The Colorado Bureau of Investigation has ruled out the girl`s father, John Ramsey, but not Patsy, as the note`s author.

JonBenet, 6, was found beaten, sexually assaulted and strangled in the basement of her upscale University Hill home later that day by her father and a family friend. No charges have been filed in the case.

Hunter`s office has declined comment on the suit and a Ramsey family spokeswoman could not be reached.

"I`m especially disturbed by the high-handed way in which the district attorney has chosen to ignore evidence," said Hoffman, who represented subway gunman Bernhard Goetz in a New York civil trial. "Everyone has pointed the finger at the Boulder Police Department, but the district attorney is the one who doesn`t want to look at any of the handwriting."

Hoffman, who has been frequently quoted in the National Enquirer, said he`s spending his own money on the case.

The district attorney`s office is expected to file a response in the next couple months.

University of Colorado Law School professor Christopher Mueller said three other cases under the statute made it to the Court of Appeals but didn`t result in prosecutions.

"Most of the cases have involved people who were connected in some way with the victims of a crime," Mueller said. "(In this case), there hasn`t been a been a refusal to prosecute yet."
D.A. wants complaint dismised
Hunter files motion in Ramsey case

Wednesday, December 10, 1997

Boulder County District Attorney Alex Hunter filed a motion Tuesday to dismiss a complaint lodged by a New York lawyer who has hired handwriting experts to show that Patsy Ramsey wrote the ransom note she found at her daughter`s murder scene.

Attorney Darnay Hoffman filed the complaint to force action in the nearly year-old, unsolved murder of 6-year-old JonBenet Ramsey. Hoffman has alleged Hunter is refusing to evaluate handwriting evidence of the ransom note - one of the most critical clues in the slaying - or prosecute JonBenet`s killer.

But his legal arguments failed to sway Hunter, who came just short of labeling Hoffman a shameless publicity hound filing motions for personal and professional gain.

Hunter noted that Hoffman faxed his complaint and supporting affidavit to news media before filing them in court and has appeared on radio and television talk shows since the filing. Hunter also noted that Hoffman filed the complaint after Hunter`s office failed to allow him to review sensitive documents such as crime scene photographs, an unedited autopsy report and transcripts of John and Patsy Ramsey`s April police interrogation.

"The relief requested is fatally premature unless and until the district attorney has in fact refused to prosecute," the district attorney responded. " ...The complaint and 'affidavit` filed by Hoffman are substantially groundless, frivolous and vexatious..."

The rarely used state statute Hoffman invoked can be set into motion by "unjustified refusal of the prosecuting attorney to prosecute any person for the crime." Under the law, a judge can order the prosecutor to explain his actions. If the judge finds the prosecutor`s reasons to be "arbitrary and capricious" and without reasonable excuse, the judge can order the prosecutor to move forward on the case.

The statute has been used successfully only once in Colorado to bring a killer to justice.

Hoffman has also sought to have a special prosecutor appointed to the case.

In the district attorney`s response, prepared by Deputy District Attorney William Nagel, officials note the Ramsey investigation is not complete and the case has not been referred to the district attorney for prosecution.

Hunter also noted he "has never made any representation to the Police Department of what his decision might be if the investigation were to be submitted to his office." Hunter stated he has "not made any decision on whether to prosecute anyone for this murder." And Boulder Police Chief Tom Koby, in an attached statement, said no arrest warrant had been prepared.

Hunter also went after Hoffman for basing his complaint on "information and belief rather than firsthand knowledge." Hoffman included in his complaint newspaper and magazine clippings that liberally quote unnamed sources.

"Quite simply, Hoffman has no nexus to the murder of JonBenet Ramsey and has not suffered a legally recognized injury in fact, so he is not entitled to pursue his private interests in this investigation in court," the document stated.

Hoffman said Tuesday he planned to file a response to the District Attorney`s arguments this week. Boulder District Judge Roxanne Bailin will rule on the complaint.

Hoffman, one of famed defense attorney Barry Scheck`s students at Cardozo Law School, has waged a campaign to portray Patsy Ramsey as the ransom note author by hiring experts, such as the president of the National Association of Document Examiners, to conduct handwriting analyses. She found the rambling, 2.5-page note demanding $118,000 for the safe return of JonBenet.

Hoffman also has written Gov. Roy Romer requesting an investigation into the Colorado Bureau of Investigation`s handling of the handwriting evidence.

The CBI has ruled out Patsy Ramsey`s husband, John, head of Boulder-based Access Graphics, but not Patsy, as the note`s author.

JonBenet was found beaten, strangled and sexually assaulted in the basement of her family`s upscale University Hill home Dec. 26 by her father and a family friend. The Ramseys deny any involvement in their daughter`s death. A Ramsey spokesperson could not be reached for comment late Tuesday.
Lawyer to submit writing examples
Camera staff report

Sunday, December 14, 1997

Hoffman alleges Hunter is refusing to evaluate handwriting evidence of the ransom note or prosecute JonBenet`s killer. Hoffman has also sought to have a special prosecutor appointed to the case.

In a prepared statement, Hoffman said the handwriting comparisons "clearly show the points of comparison between Patsy Ramsey`s handwriting and that of the ransom note writer, who had tried to disguise their writing."

Hoffman attached seven examples of Patsy`s handwriting next to writing lifted from the ransom note.

Patsy Ramsey found the rambling 2.5-page note demanding $118,000 for the safe return of their daughter, who was found beaten and strangled in the basement of the family`s University Hill home on Dec. 26.

Hoffman said he will file 50 points of comparison, prepared by the National Association of Document Examiners to prove that Patsy Ramsey wrote the note.

Hunter filed a motion Tuesday to dismiss Hoffman`s complaint, arguing that it is groundless and he is seeking publicity.

Under the law, a judge can order the prosecutor to explain his actions, and to move forward with the case.
D.A.: Lawyer's demand in Ramsey case illegal
Associated Press

Tuesday, December 30, 1997

A New York lawyer's demand that charges immediately be filed in the slaying of JonBenet Ramsey is flawed if not flatly illegal, Boulder County's district attorney said in a court filing.

Alex Hunter's brief, filed Friday in Boulder District Court, is the latest in an exchange of briefs he and lawyer Darnay Hoffman have filed since JonBenet, 6, was found strangled Dec. 26, 1996.

Hunter says Hoffman lacks the standing to invoke a Colorado law allowing private citizens to question the action of prosecutors, and his lawsuit cannot stem from Colorado's "citizen arrest" statute Hoffman is citing.

Boulder County District Judge Roxanne Bailin has not made a ruling or scheduled a hearing on Hoffman's complaint.

Hoffman filed a civil action in November, accusing Hunter of acting unreasonably in his refusal to file charges in JonBenet's death.

Hoffman claims independent handwriting analysis indicates JonBenet's mother, Patsy, wrote the ransom note found hours before the child's body was discovered in the basement of the Ramseys' mansion.

Hoffman characterized as "bogus" Hunter's claim he has been prevented from making an arrest because police have not presented him with a case.

In his response, Hunter said Hoffman laments the lack of attention the court has given his claims, but it is the "legal deficiencies of his (Hoffman's) action which underlie the motion to dismiss."

Hoffman failed to state a legal claim, and dismissal is required as a matter of law, the district attorney said.

Hoffman's prosecution demand based on the citizen's arrest law is flawed, Hunter said, "because the statute does not authorize any person to come here from out-of-state to make any arrest.

"In addition, this statute merely authorizes a person on the scene to make an arrest; it does not grant that person standing to bring a lawsuit," Hunter said.

Hoffman has made no case for allowing his participation in the case "beyond his own curiosity," Hunter said.
Contact the NewsRoom or BoulderNews.
Judge rejects suit against D.A.
Lawyer wanted Patsy Ramsey to face charges
By MATT SEBASTIAN, Camera Staff Writer

Wednesday, January 21, 1998

A Boulder district judge dismissed a New York lawyer`s attempt to force Boulder County District Attorney Alex Hunter to file charges in the year-old JonBenet Ramsey murder investigation.

Judge Roxanne Bailin ruled Tuesday that Darnay Hoffman is premature in his claims that Hunter has refused to prosecute anyone in the slaying of the 6-year-old.

"There may come a time when the district attorney declines to investigate further and may be deemed to have refused to prosecute someone for this murder," Bailin wrote in her four-page ruling. "But at a time when detectives are still working full time on the investigation, it cannot be said that the district attorney has refused to prosecute."

Hoffman filed suit in November, alleging the district attorney`s office had enough evidence to prosecute Patsy Ramsey in connection with her daughter`s murder. Citing a Colorado statute used successfully only once before, Hoffman wanted to force Hunter to file charges.

The New York attorney claims independent handwriting analysis indicates Patsy Ramsey, JonBenet`s mother, wrote the ransom note found the morning of Dec. 26, 1996. JonBenet`s body - strangled and beaten - was found hours later in the basement of the family`s Boulder home.

When reached for comment Tuesday, Hoffman said he wasn`t surprised by Bailin`s decision.

"But I`m certainly not outraged, either," Hoffman said. "She`s not saying I`m wrong. She doesn`t say, 'There`s no evidence against Patsy Ramsey, what the hell are you doing with this!`

"All this means is that at a future date, if it turns out he does refuse, I can bring suit again."

Suzanne Laurion, spokeswoman for the district attorney`s office, said Hunter would not comment on the decision, in accordance with his traditional policy of not commenting on rulings.

But in a response filed last month, Hunter said the New York attorney`s claim that he had refused to prosecute was "bogus" because police hadn`t presented him with a case.

Hoffman, though, contends police have made "informal presentations" of possible cases to Hunter and his staff periodically since the early stages of the investigation.

"He's hiding behind semantics," Hoffman said, noting Hunter repeatedly has said he hasn't received a "formal" presentation.

"I just believe that the district attorney has constructively abandoned the case," Hoffman said. "And I think Fleet White has voted a serious 'no confidence' in the district attorney."

White, a friend of the Ramsey family who was with John Ramsey when he discovered his daughter's body, asked Gov. Roy Romer to remove Hunter from the investigation.

Romer denied White's request, but the oil magnate went public. In a letter published Friday in the Daily Camera, White said Hunter's actions have "created a strong appearance of impropriety, professional incompetence and a lack of objectivity."

Hoffman said his next step is to wait and see if a grand jury is called to weigh the evidence in the case. If that happens, he said, he'll cite another obscure Colorado law that would allow him to demand to appear before the panel with his handwriting experts.