Fifteen hundred pounds of marijuana is a whole lot of pot, even in Pitkin County, but 1,500 pounds is not nearly enough for Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) officials to alert Pitkin County Sheriff Bob Braudis that a major drug ring is doing business right under his nose—until the bust was in the books.
The Sheriff is, of course, enamored of those who break the law. Though now only intermittently sighted in his office in the basement of Pitkin County Courthouse—“He keeps his own hours,” explains his secretary—Braudis embraces the criminal element. One example: the time the Sheriff’s Office also gave a pass to a man dealing drugs out of his home in Aspen Village. In his most recent, healthy incarnation, the Sheriff was seen writing a letter on Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office letterhead in support of convicted felon Burt Fingerhut, a man he barely knows.
“That struck us that a sheriff would write a letter supporting a criminal,” Assistant U. S. Attorney Karl Buch said. “And he wrote it on his professional letterhead.”
In contrast, Braudis knows some of the characters busted in a major marijuana ring with headquarters in Pitkin County all too well. Charles Agar, writing in The Aspen Times, wrote a solid story about the bust based on an affidavit filed in the case, one likely leaked by a lawyer of one of the defendants. But the story neglected to mention that the bust of a ring running from Arizona to Wisconsin, from Rifle to Maine represents yet another example of the Sheriff of Pitkin County categorically refusing to enforce a law he doesn’t agree with.
The Sheriff’s enablers, and they are legion, will counter categorically that he is an ultra-cool dude, the very paradigm of “community law enforcement,” as Braudis likes to call his non-existent beat. And because pot under his self-congratulatory purview is essentially legal in Pitkin County, it’s no surprise that the man responsible for enforcing that particular law is friendly with some of those charged with the crime.
This is at least the third time the top law enforcement officer in Pitkin County—and arguably the most powerful man in Aspen—managed to miss out on big-time drug busts in his immediate jurisdiction. The other times the drug of choice was cocaine and not marijuana. But Sheriff Bob got a pass when the DEA and Aspen Police Department officers busted people dealing cocaine out of Little Annie’s; after the Conoco coke bust at the Aspen Airport Business Center during his re-election campaign, the Sheriff dismissed drug use as a downtown “core” problem, even though the ABC is beyond city limits, within his county jurisdiction.
The long and short of it: Pitkin County is an absolutely fabulous place to deal drugs, as the latest busts attest. Those who decry drugs must find solace in the Sheriff’s campaign promise on the record that had never done drugs as Sheriff of Pitkin County, one of the most audacious whoppers in the history of American politics. No one called him on that one, either, and no one will call him on this.
People in Pitkin County must be on drugs.