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In re Pautler

Colorado Supreme Court
47 P.3d 1175 (Colo. 2002) (en banc)


William Neal brutally murdered three women with a wood-splitting maul and raped a fourth. Afterward, he took the fourth to her apartment and held her and two friends hostage. Meanwhile, Neal made a recording detailing his killings. When he left, he told the hostages to contact police and page him. Police arrived and paged Neal. Neal called the apartment from his cell phone and spoke to a deputy sheriff for hours. Meanwhile, Chief Deputy District Attorney Mark Pautler (respondent) went to the murder scene where he saw the three victims, the bloody maul, and eyebolts screwed to the floor. Then Pautler went to the apartment where the deputy still had Neal on the phone, encouraging him to surrender. Neal insisted he would not surrender without his attorney. Pautler called Neal’s attorney, but the number was disconnected. Neal then requested a public defender (PD). Pautler spoke with the police and agreed to impersonate a PD. The deputy told Neal a PD had just arrived and handed over the phone. Neal believed Pautler was a PD representing him, asked about his rights, and eventually surrendered. Pautler did not disclose the ruse until the real PD discovered it two weeks later. The Colorado Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel charged Pautler with ethics violations. Pautler testified that the threat of imminent harm or duress justified the ruse, and that he would do exactly the same again except he would disclose the ruse to the PD’s office afterward. Noting Pautler’s impeccable reputation and career, the board suspended Pautler for three months, stayed for one year if Pautler met ethics requirements. Pautler appealed.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Kourlis, J.)

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