The 17th Judicial District Attorney’s office has been in the news many times in recent months, and it doesn’t seem that will stop soon.
This November, two candidates are vying for this decisive seat in Adams and Broomfield counties. Tim McCormack, a Republican, and Brian Mason, a Democrat, have different visions for justice in the 17th Judicial District. In recent interviews, the two talked about their backgrounds and why they’re running for DA.
Mason grew up in Aurora, and his family eventually moved to Littleton, where he attended Heritage High School. He then went to Kenyon College in Ohio and eventually worked in Washington, D.C., for President Bill Clinton’s administration. After that, he went overseas and was an American fellow in the German foreign ministry and German parliament. In 2003, he went home and attended law school at the University of Colorado-Boulder. In 2006, after finishing school, he began working for 17th Judicial District Attorney Don Quick.
Today, Mason oversees 30 attorneys in the district court unit as a chief trial deputy under District Attorney Dave Young. In his 14 years there, Mason said, “It really is a pleasure of fighting for victims of crime and learning everything that I possibly can about our criminal justice system.”
A DA prosecutes a case and, if successful, recommends a sentence to the judge. A sentencing should protect the community first and foremost, Mason said. It also has to be fair to the victim, he added. “The suggestion by some that it is the job of the DA to lock people up and throw away the key is totally inconsistent with justice and totally inconsistent with what our job is,” Mason said.
To Mason, the same concept applies to the most serious crimes. For example, he thinks someone found guilty of first-degree murder should spend life in prison and not receive the death penalty. Young’s office is currently trying a case against Drejon Dearing, charged with killing Adams County Sheriff’s Deputy Heath Gumm. Young originally went for the death penalty. That changed after a judge declared the case a mistrial around the same time Gov. Jared Polis signed a law abolishing capital punishment. “I was against the death penalty before the state Legislature repealed it,” Mason said.
Mason has received endorsements from Polis, former Gov. Bill Ritter, Attorney General Phil Weiser, every current Adams County commissioner and many local state legislators. Mason commented, “That just shows the overwhelming and broad support for my view. I’m very proud of that support. I’m very grateful.”
McCormack was born in Great Falls, Montana, and eventually moved to Grand Junction, where he went to high school. Eventually, he made his way to Fort Collins, where he attended Colorado State University and after that, went to Creighton University’s law school. In 1992, he got his first job as a prosecutor in Sheridan, Wyoming. “I knew then that this is what I wanted to do as a form of public service,” he said.
In 1999, 17th District Attorney Bob Grant hired him and, under Quick’s tenure, he became chief trial deputy. “Wherever I was needed, I would go,” McCormack commented. He said he prosecuted more than 30 homicide cases. In 2016, he left because he felt the office was managed poorly. Today, he works for 1st Judicial District Attorney Pete Weir in Jefferson County. He’s lived in Brighton for 21 years.
“I didn’t move to Brighton because of the political opportunities that would be present,” McCormack said, “(Being elected DA) is not a stepping stone or the launching of a political career.”
McCormack said he’s running for DA because “My top priority is public safety. For communities, for families. I will always put public safety over politics.”
McCormack said that he’s a “rule-of-law person.” To him, that means recommending a sentence that fits the crime. Before lawmakers abolished the death penalty, McCormack thinks that would have been a suitable punishment for those found guilty of killing a police officer. “There needs to be some type of punishment that is commensurate with some type of these heinous crimes,” McCormack said.
At the same time, McCormack said he accepts that the law has changed. “I don’t get to pick and choose the law that I do or don’t want to enforce. I have to take my personal feelings out of it,” he said.
McCormack’s received endorsements from Grant, Bill Owens, former governor, Brighton Mayor Greg Mills, Federal Heights Mayor Linda Montoya, Mike McIntosh, former Adams County Sheriff, and the Fraternal Order of Police, among others. McCormack commented, “They’re all in agreement that there needs to be a change in that office.”
Photos: 1) Brian Mason; 2) Tim McCormack. Photos courtesy of Brian Mason and Tim McCormack