Colorado Drug Warrior Busted for Meth Distribution


Patrick J. Sullivan Jr., a widely admired lawman who served as sheriff of Arapahoe County, Colorado, from 1984 until his retirement in 2002, was arrested yesterday and charged with trying to trade methamphetamine for sex. The Denver Post describes the sting that led to the bust:

An investigative report filed in court in support of Sullivan's arrest says officers from the South Metro Drug Task Force, including Arapahoe deputies, used confidential informants and audio and video surveillance in the investigation.

According to the court papers:

After a complaint in early October to the Arapahoe sheriff's office that an "unwanted party" was at a home in Centennial, a deputy arrived and identified the person there as the former sheriff.

Agent Matt Hanagan of the drug task force was brought in to the case and asked two confidential informants who worked with the task force whether they thought they could purchase methamphetamine from Sullivan. Both of them said they had engaged in sex acts with Sullivan in the past and said they would be willing to ask him for meth in exchange for a sex act.

After several phone calls and text messages, Sullivan agreed to meet one of the men at an Aurora home and bring meth to exchange for sex.

Officers set up audio and video surveillance at the house and, Tuesday afternoon, Sullivan arrived and was seen to hand suspected meth to the informant.

He was taken into custody and officers found additional suspected meth — a total of 0.7 grams.

Sullivan was booked into the jail that bears his name [i.e., the Patrick J. Sullivan Jr. Detention Facility in Centennial] on a charge of unlawful distribution, manufacturing, dispensing or sale of a controlled substance. The Class 5 felony carries a penalty of up to six years in prison.

This sort of sleazy setup is an egregious waste of law enforcement resources, and it is manifestly unjust to threaten someone with six years in prison for attempting a peaceful, entirely consensual transaction with another adult. But that is par for the course in the war on drugs, a cause Sullivan enthusiastically served for many years. He led opposition to a 1998 medical marijuana initiative and called asset forfeiture "an incredible tool" in the battle againt meth. The Post notes that "he participated in a statewide meth task force in 2000," and his deputies served on the same South Metro Drug Task Force that arrested him. Among other accomplishments, they helped bust 17 people on drug charges at a 2000 rave at Aurora Airpark. In March 2001, a few weeks after the National Sheriffs' Association named Sullivan Sheriff of the Year, he bragged that the task force had caught a 19-year-old in an Arvada motel with 4,000 MDMA pills worth $100,000. Sullivan declared that "recoveries of large quantities of Ecstasy within the last 10 days along the Front Range of Colorado and Wyoming is a clear indicator of the prevalence and availability of this dangerous drug in our community." According to the Post, the suspect was charged with four felonies, each "punishable by four to 48 years in prison."

[Thanks to Ari Armstrong for the tip.]