November 9, 2015 by socialaction2014
Advocacy Group, A Just Cause, Questions the Pattern of Injustice and Targeted Actions Against the Pastor and Members of a Predominantly African-American Congregation in Colorado Springs, Colorado
A Just Cause Highlights the Repeated Harassment, Invasion of Privacy, and Unjust Court Ruling Against the Colorado Springs Fellowship Church
DENVER, CO–(Marketwired – November 09, 2015) – A Just Cause (AJC) is raising questions about the pattern of relentless targeting, harassment and unfavorable actions against a small, predominantly African-American church in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The Colorado Springs Fellowship Church (CSFC) is pastored by Rose Banks. Its members have experienced a myriad of rash, unfavorable actions over the years in dealings with the FBI, IRS, DOJ, as well as local and federal courts.
“Beginning with the raid of IRP Solutions Corporation in 2005: the FBI went outside the scope of their warrant for financial records, seizing intellectual property, engineering notes and other personal items to the IRS, illegally accessing the church’s financial records without a subpoena or following IRC 7611 for accessing records for a non-profit tax exempt church, harassing church members at their jobs, accessing the banking records of the pastor and several church members without a subpoena, unjust court rulings in dealing with homeowner’s association and multiple local businesses — most recently Advanced Alarm, who attempted to charge exorbitant rates on a security system for the church parsonage. It is one thing after another and it has to stop,” exclaims Cliff Stewart, Chairman of the Colorado Springs Fellowship Church Board of Directors.
The raid of IRP Solutions Corporation and subsequent imprisonment of six executives, all members of the Colorado Springs Fellowship Church raises multiple questions. Discovery in the case reveals that Greg Goldberg, a friend of Matthew Kirsch, the Assistant United States Attorney in Denver who prosecuted the case, hand delivered a letter with detailed instructions on what charges to bring, orchestrating the entire case. “Who Greg Goldberg represents and his role remains a mystery, but his actions unleashed a devastating chain of events for the families of the men known as the IRP6, and the entire Colorado Springs Fellowship Church congregation. His hand delivered letter resulted in multiple grand juries, a raid, an indictment, trial and ultimately seven to ten year prison sentences for men who worked at a legitimate business and had a viable software product for US law enforcement agencies, which would improve cross-communication and prevent another 9/11,” says Stewart.
The raid of the business by the FBI came after the Colorado Springs branch of the FBI called the matter one that should be pursued civilly. Nevertheless, the Denver branch of the FBI secured a warrant for financial records. However, they seized everything in the business, to include intellectual property, engineering notes, corporate documents and personal items of employees.
“By law, the government should have returned the property after the trial was concluded and should be returned immediately. Fed. R. Crim. P. 41(g). The Defendants have filed motion after motion for return of their property and the government refuses to return the property in flagrant violation of Defendant’s Constitutional Rights under the Fourth Amendment and Due Process Rights,” declares Appellate Attorney Gwendolyn Lawson.
Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure Rule 41(g), provides that ‘A person aggrieved by a lawful or unlawful search and seizure of property or by the deprivation of property may move for the property’s return.1 Fed. R. Crim. P. 41(g). A claimant seeking recovery of property through a Rule 41(g) proceeding must only prove a “right to lawful possession of the property and an equitable right to its return, and no presumptions exist in favor of the government” (U.S. v. Clymore, 245 F.3d 1195, 1201 (U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit 2001)) (emphasis added). “[T]he seizure of property from someone is prima facie evidence of that person’s entitlement” (United States v. Estep, 760 F.2d 1060, 1064 (10th Cir.1985)). The court holds that the continual retention of evidence after termination of the proceedings constitute a taking without compensation and gives rise to a violation of due process of law (Lowther v. United States, 480 F.2d 1031 (10th Cir. 1973)); “Courts which have insisted on the return of items of evidence after the end of a trial have reasoned that the government no longer had a valid reason for retaining the movant’s property” (See e.g., United States v. Wilson, 540 F.2d 1100,1101 (D.C.Cir.1976)).
Attorney Lawson states, “Motions have been presented before Judge Christine Arguello on July 28, 2015, October 21, 2015 and November 2, 2015 with only a very small fraction of the property being returned. While the government has continually and illegally withheld the property in violation of the Defendants rights, the court has been lax and nonchalantly enforced the Defendants constitutional rights. 18 USCA §§626 provides that, if it appears that the property or paper taken is not the same as that described in the warrant, the judge or commissioner must cause it to be returned to the person from whom it was taken,” concludes Lawson (Marron v. United States, 275 U.S. 192, 195-197 (1927); United States v. Walser, 275 F.3d 981, 986 (10th Cir.2001).
Following the raid and for a space of four years the IRS illegally accessed the banking records of the church, its pastor and several members without a subpoena. As a 501(c)(3) organization, the protections and procedures of IRC 7611 applied to the Colorado Springs Fellowship Church for initiating investigations, audits or a church tax inquiry of any sort. This means written notice was required. Such notice was never provided as the government worked in concert with the IRS to systematically obtain full access to the records of their choosing.
Discovery documents in the IRP case show that over 9,000 pages out of 18000 pages of discovery were church banking records and personal banking records of Pastor Rose Banks and numerous church members. According to court documents, the Pastor and these parishioners are not named in any search warrants, nor were they notified that they were under investigation by anyone of the U.S. Attorney’s Office (D. Ct. No. 1:09-CR-00266-CMA). In a response to local ABC television affiliate KRDO, U.S. Attorney (Denver) spokesperson, Jeff Dorschner, stated on behalf of Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Kirsch, that the church was not the target of an investigation (KRDO-TV, Colorado Springs, June 6, 2010).
This is in direct conflict with the view of the IRP6’s grand jury foreperson, Cynthia Haid, when AUSA Matthew Kirsch questioned about the target of the investigation and Ms. Haid responded, “Rose Banks, David Banks, of course, Lawanna Clark” according to court records (US v. Clark, 09CR151-CMA, Transcript Nov. 09, 2010, p. 173: 1-11). “If the church and the pastor were not the targets of the investigation, why did the FBI, IRS and US government engage in such a far-reaching and illegal search? I would assert that even if the church, pastor or any of its members were subject to an investigation, the rule of law in the US must be followed for every citizen. It is never ok to trample the law and encroach upon personal rights and freedoms, whether an investigation is underway or not,” declares Stewart.
When the IRP6 challenged AUSA Kirsch on how banking records were obtained, court records show that Kirsch argued that the defendants’ grounds for suppression and the ability to formulate a defense strategy did not outweigh grand jury secrecy. “Part of what is confidential about the subpoenas, themselves, is the manner in which the government makes the requests for these materials; that revealing the subpoenas would reveal part of the tactics by which the government conducts its investigation,” said Kirsch. “But I think that this is the first — granting this motion is the first step down a slippery slope,” said Kirsch (Case 1:09-cr-00266-CMA Document 272 Filed 08/12/10 USDC Colorado).
“The bank and the government did not produce subpoenas showing authorization for obtaining the banking records. AUSA Kirsch made a statement that even if the records were obtained “improperly”, it wasn’t relevant to the case. Judge Arguello did not hold Kirsch accountable for these actions (Banks et al v Department of Justice et al, Civil Action No. 10cv01582-MSK-MJW). The government violated the procedures of IRC Section 7611 of the Internal Revenue Service Tax Code. The government illegally went into CSFC’s financial records without legal authorization, purpose or right. The government did not provide notice to, or a response from, the church before investigating CSFC financial records,” states appellate attorney, Gwendolyn Lawson.
In addition to financial records, the government accessed post office boxes without a warrant or subpoena. “In the IRP case, Judge Christine Arguello initially admonished Kirsch for his illegal access of financial records, only later to offer no relief to the defendants and exacting no punishment to the prosecutor for his actions resulting in the wrongful conviction of six innocent men. The reach of the government to invade the privacy and encroach upon the rights of Colorado Springs Fellowship Church was not only far-reaching, but illegal, and it has gone without consequence. Every American should be concerned because it could happen to anyone,” notes Stewart.
In a related case, AJC brought civil litigation against Darlene Martinez, court reporter for Judge Arguello. In an unfathomable act, Darlene Martinez refused to release the entire transcription of the IRP6 case. She excluded a sidebar conversation where Judge Arguello demanded testimony from the defendants against their wishes and their Constitutional Fifth Amendment rights. When the suit was filed against Ms. Martinez, the Colorado US Attorney’s office under John Walsh, represented Ms. Martinez contrary to the fact that the suit was against her in her personal capacity, not as an agent of the court. “The fact that the US Attorney’s office is shielding Ms. Martinez from civil litigation is baffling to us and leads us to believe there is some ulterior motive. If her motive is not for service to the public, it must be a cover-up of the actions of Judge Arguello,” Stewart proclaims.
This assertion is corroborated by Judge R. Brooke Jackson, who presided over the case, in his summation of the intention of the prosecutor assigned to defend Ms. Martinez, “.if something occurred where a criminal defendant, by inadvertence, let’s say, felt that he was forced to testify and objectively that a reasonable person could so interpret something that a judge said and if that person then took the stand when he otherwise would not have, that would not be just, would it? .what you are saying is, no, we want to have you, Judge, explore the legal issues and see if we can get this thing dismissed on the law and not have to go down that road and nobody will ever know what really happened. Right?” (Case 1:13-cv-02260-RBJ Document 37 Filed 04/18/14 USDC Colorado Page 19). After making these strong statements and ruling without a doubt in his opinion that something was missing from the transcript, Judge Jackson unexplainably dismissed the case on an arbitrary law and the whereabouts of the missing portions of transcript is still a mystery.
The pattern of injustice continues against with ongoing harassment, disparate treatment, and discriminatory practices by the Pine Creek Village Association (PCVA), the governing Home Owner’s Association of the church parsonage where Pastor Banks has resided since 2001. “Pine Creek Village Association (PCVA) and CSFC entered into an agreement regarding trees and lights at the CSFC parsonage (Pine Creek Village Association v. Colorado Springs Fellowship, 2013CV394). In the settlement agreement, CSFC was in compliance and at the approval of the Settlement Stipulation, the Court dismissed the action in its entirety, including all claims and counterclaims asserted by the Parties in this action, with prejudice,” states Attorney Lawson.
“Every time a Complaint is brought against CSFC, the court’s rulings are made in favor of the illegal practices, violations of the parties and CSFC’s constitutional rights. There needs to be a change of venue outside the state of Colorado before any justice of a neutral party will be rendered. Several cases have commenced against CFSC with unjust results and rulings from the court. In the civil case with PCVA, the process server is alleged to have served the registered agent a Summons and Complaint re-litigating (res judicata) the already settled and dismissed action with prejudice in Pine Creek Village Association v. Colorado Springs Fellowship, 2013CV394. Accordingly, the registered agent was not served and El Paso County Court Judge Larry David Martin ruled that the registered agent had been served without any evidence except a he say/she say testimony by the process server,” concludes Lawson.
Most recently, in civil proceedings with Advanced Alarm Company, a locally owned and operated security services company, Judge Kane instructed the all-white jury to construct a verdict only on the law, rather than on fairness, proper business practice, good faith, or execution of terms of a contract. The church has conducted business with Advanced Alarm Company for nearly 30 years and had asked for the installation of cameras for closed circuit monitoring of the church parsonage. After installation had started, Stewart, Chairman of the Board, arrived to the parsonage and the technician was struggling and unsure how to install the equipment. He also was astonished by the invoice.
“I’m an IT professional and frequently deal with electronic technology, but I was astounded by the $28,000 noted on the Advanced Alarm invoice for four cameras. I searched the part number online and realized there was a 4x markup from the retail price of each camera. The labor hours were also overestimated and I suspect it was due to the incompetence of the staff, since I was helping them with the installation details. I called the owner of Advanced Alarm to discuss the exorbitant charges, which were unfair considering the substantial business we’ve done with Advanced Alarm over the years. He refused to budge on the pricing, so I packed up the equipment and took it back to their offices to return,” recalls Stewart. “When I arrived, they refused to take the equipment, I then shipped it back to their offices certified and obtained a quote with another local alarm company, who offered thirteen cameras for $18,000 and a far more advanced technology and alarm infrastructure,” concludes Stewart.
Ultimately, the all-white jury ruled in the favor of Advanced Alarm, instructing the church to pay over $28,000 despite returning the equipment and receiving only partial services from the company. “The jury stated that the church had signed a contract, but it was signed in good faith. After the pricing inequities, the church moved on to a more suitably priced alternative. It further defies reason and logic that Judge Kane advised us to pick up the four cameras brought to the court room by Advanced Alarm since they were not our property,” recounts Stewart.
“This pattern of abuse, neglect of law, illegal actions by prosecutors, and seemingly, self-interpretation of the law by judges leans toward tyranny and such practices should not be acceptable in courts of law in the United States. If a judge is not able to administer the law properly, then that judge should at least have the decency to offer a change of venue for the parties involved. Is it too much to ask for justice in America, namely Colorado?” ponders Stewart.
A source speaking on condition of anonymity, who worked for years in the Colorado Court system for multiple judges, stated that all the lawyers in Colorado are tightly connected with judges. They go in and talk to them about how they want them to rule. “In the civil case against Advanced Alarm, it’s uncertain who, if anyone, talked to the jury, but the judge and all lawyers have their names and contact information. It’s difficult to see how they could rule in favor of Advanced Alarm with the facts of the case and the evidence that was presented. The old adage advises against taking the law into one’s own hands, but what happens when the law proves to be corrupt? How do citizens handle these matters?” questions Stewart.
“It’s case after case and in court after court. The targeting of the Colorado Springs Fellowship Church, its pastor and members is undeniable. We can’t seem to get a fair shake no matter the circumstances or evidence that weighs heavily in our favor. Justice isn’t blind; however, it has proved very lopsided in matters pertaining to the CSFC congregation. We will continue to fight and, where possible, petition for a change of venue in the hopes of finding justice,” vows Stewart.
For more information about the story of the IRP6 or for copies of the legal filings go to http://www.freetheirp6.org.
Related press releases: http://www.a-justcause.com/#!2015-press-releases/cl69