Although the fate of an internet sex crimes investigation unit in Jefferson County is now settled, a debate over ethics rules it dusted up might be delayed indefinitely.
The county’s Child Sex Offender Internet Investigation unit — known by the name of its mascot, CHEEZO — was shut down in December by the 1st Judicial District Attorney’s Office, where it was housed, after a complaint to the Colorado Supreme Court’s standing rules committee. It will now continue its work with the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office.
“I’m extraordinarily disappointed that this move was necessitated,” District Attorney Pete Weir said. “I’m also very hopeful for either the standing rule committee to take another look to rules 8.4 and 5.3, or perhaps ultimately even the Colorado Supreme Court.”
The unit, run by investigators Mike and Cassandra Harris was founded in 1996, and its investigatory work resulted in 900 convictions of sexual offenders in the county. But because the investigators operated within the prosecutor’s office and conducted sting operations online by posing as children in chat rooms to catch child predators seeking contact, an ethics complaint filed by criminal defense attorney Phil Cherner cited violations of the Colorado Rules of Professional Conduct barring attorneys from engaging in deceit.