Fighting City Hall: At 520 Colfax

by Hannah Garcia

Three homeless defendants lost a criminal case in which they challenged the city’s unauthorized camping ordinance, a local law they characterized as an immoral ban on “surviving.”
Jerry Burton, Therese Howard and Randy Russell were all found guilty Wednesday of violating the law after a jury of six deliberated for three hours but found them not guilty regarding charges of interference with police. The trial lasted two days, and all three were sentenced to one year of unsupervised probation with a requirement to fulfill court-sanctioned community service projects.
Burton and Russell, both homeless, were cited on Nov. 28 at 27th and Arapahoe streets when police said they did not comply with demands to move their camping equipment. All three were cited later at the City and County Building at 14th and Bannock Streets later that night — only a few blocks away from the Lindsey-Flanigan Courthouse where they were prosecuted last week.
Still, the legal fight isn’t over. A civil challenge to the ordinance is still in the discovery phases in federal court and will likely go to trial late this year. Although the defense pushed for acquittal, the guilty verdict provides room for an appeal, although the Colorado Supreme Court passively validated Boulder’s own camping ban by declining to review a challenge in 2011. Denver passed its ordinance the following year.

To read this story and other complete articles featured in the April 10, 2017 print edition of Law Week Colorado, copies are available for purchase online.