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Felony charge could jeopardize Pueblo Councilman-elect’s position

PUEBLO, Colo. (KRDO) -- A soon-to-be Pueblo City Council Member charged with a felony for criminal mischief is set to be sworn into office in January, but a conviction could stymie his plan for public service.

According to the Pueblo City Charter, an elected official convicted of a felony is required to forfeit their position. "A person who has been convicted of a felony shall not become a candidate for the Council or Mayor," says Section 2-4 of the city charter.

On Election Day, voters in the south side and Bessemer neighborhood chose Vicente Martinez Ortega to represent District 4 on Pueblo City Council.

According to a criminal complaint filed by the 10th Judicial District Attorney's Office, Vicente Martinez faces a felony-level criminal mischief charge. The newly elected council member is accused of damaging at least $1,000 and at most $5,000 in city property.

Vicente Martinez Ortega

"Vicente destroyed several plaques at the [Christopher] Columbus monument on Abriendo Avenue," said 10th Judicial District Attorney Jeff Chostner. "One of the plaques was mine, so technically I'm a victim in the case."

The Public Works Department in Pueblo says repairs at the Christopher Columbus Plaza are still in progress.

According to Chostner, the 4th Judicial District Attorney's Office have appointed a Special Prosecutor for the case due a to a conflict of interest.

In Pueblo's Charter, it says, "Any officer after final conviction of a felony shall forfeit his office forthwith."

Martinez-Ortega tells 13 Investigates he is confident he'll be sworn or remain a council member when the case concludes. He says the charge is politically motivated.

“I do want to let the people of Bessemer know that Political Prosecutions still do happen,” said Martinez Ortega. “What this shows us is that it is super unfair to folks who get elected, win a position and now they are under such a microscope because of their political activism."

Council Member-elect Martinez Ortega declined to say if he was innocent of the charge or discuss the specifics surrounding the charge.

He is the son of the late Pueblo Activist Rita Martinez, and like his mother, he has been vocal opponent to the existence of the Christopher Columbus Plaza on Abriendo Avenue across the street from the Rawlings Library.

According to the Pueblo City Clerk's Office, Martinez Ortega officially announced his candidacy on August 10th. Court records show that Martinez Ortega was charged on June 29th.

Martinez Ortega tells 13 Investigates he is not worried about a potential conviction.

"I will be sworn in on January 10th as a City Councilman," said Martinez Ortega.

Three days prior to his swearing in, Martinez Ortega will be in court for a plea hearing.

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Dan Beedie

Dan is a reporter with the 13 Investigates team. Learn more about Dan here.

Comments

8 Comments

    1. You’re not an activist, you’re a criminal, too stupid to make the changes you want in a legal manner. But knowing Pueblo, you probably will be sworn in, and if you are, they deserve you.

  1. “said 10th Judicial District Attorney Jeff Chostner. “One of the plaques was mine, so technically I’m a victim in the case.””
    So that means you and your office are recusing the entire 10th Judicial District Attorney’s office because as you stated, you are a victim and if you are the DA for the entire staff of you office to include the deputy DA’s working for you.

    “”A person who has been convicted of a felony shall not become a candidate for the Council or Mayor,” says Section 2-4 of the city charter.”
    Oh look, yet another legal use of the term “Shall” being used in legal terminology as an absolute definitive, just like the 2nd Amendment’s “Shall not be infringed.”

    “According to a criminal complaint filed by the 10th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, Vicente Martinez faces a felony-level criminal mischief charge.”
    Why did the DA’s Office file the charges and not PPD or PCSO? I can understand not filing with PPD as they are clearly under the umbrella of the Mayor, but why not PCSO, it is not governed by the cities mayor or city council? Additionally why did the “victim, Jeff Chostner” file charges with his office to file charges?

    “”Vicente destroyed several plaques at the [Christopher] Columbus monument on Abriendo Avenue,” said 10th Judicial District Attorney Jeff Chostner.”
    Allegedly, and that is a hard sell as the victim is also the prosecutor, and it is the prosecutor that is making this statement to the public without the presumption of innocence.

    “According to Chostner, the 4th Judicial District Attorney’s Office have appointed a Special Prosecutor for the case due a to a conflict of interest.”
    Still doesn’t answer why the charges were not filed by PPD or PCSO, and why the investigators of DA’s office did.

    With a case that has so many glaringly obvious abnormalities to the standard procedural operations of how Law Enforcement is done I too would be skeptical based on the statements provided in this article.

    1. A lot of errors in your comment.
      .
      First, nothing in the article says that “investigators of DA’s office” filed the charges, and not PPD or PCSO. The investigation was done by local law enforcement, then the report was sent to the DA’s Office for review and filing of charges. Police Officers can arrest people and book them into jail on charges, but the formal filing of charges is done by a Deputy District Attorney, not a DA’s Investigator.
      .
      Second, the Special Prosecutor is not from this DA’s Office, but from another DA’s Office, likely the 4th JDA’s Office in Colorado Springs, and that is likely who formally filed the charges.
      .
      Third, this is a KRD0 article, and news reporters never seem to get the facts straight so that it make sense what happened.

  2. “First, nothing in the article says that “investigators of DA’s office” filed the charges,”
    Taken directly from the article, “According to a criminal complaint filed by the 10th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, Vicente Martinez faces a felony-level criminal mischief charge.”
    I thought that was apparent based upon the verbiage this article used…

    “Second, the Special Prosecutor is not from this DA’s Office, but from another DA’s Office,”
    Taken directly from the article, ““According to Chostner, the 4th Judicial District Attorney’s Office have appointed a Special Prosecutor for the case due a to a conflict of interest.””
    I wasn’t confused about the difference I mentioned in the initial statement between 10th and 4th. I pointed out the charges were filed by the alleged “Victim”, who also filed the charges, not PPD or PCSO. This was very clearly stated as well.

    KRDO took the facts that were given by both the alleged victim / prosecutor and the alleged suspect provided. What misunderstandings could have been given by Res Gestae statements as the facts of the case?
    Taken from the article, “Council Member-elect Martinez Ortega declined to say if he was innocent of the charge or discuss the specifics surrounding the charge.”

    If you need further @ssistance please ask.

    1. ““”Vicente destroyed several plaques at the [Christopher] Columbus monument on Abriendo Avenue,” said 10th Judicial District Attorney Jeff Chostner.”
      Allegedly, and that is a hard sell as the victim is also the prosecutor, and it is the prosecutor that is making this statement to the public without the presumption of innocence.”
      I see Mikey’s confusion regarding this comment so let me clean this up better,
      “”Vicente destroyed several plaques at the [Christopher] Columbus monument on Abriendo Avenue,” said 10th Judicial District Attorney Jeff Chostner.”
      Allegedly, and that is a hard sell as the victim is also the top prosecutor for the 10th Judicial district, and it is the 10th Judicial district’s top prosecutor that is making this statement to the public without the presumption of innocence.

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