Dear Editors and Copley Press,
I am writing to respond to Ms. Knautz's letter which was printed on November 14, 2000. Although the letter was largely a slam against me and my professional integrity, I will not respond to those portions. However, there is a an absolute untruth contained within her letter in regards to one of my clients which cannot be ignored.
Knautz pretends to know about the facts and circumstances of the Willie Rodriguez case, tried, not once, but twice in 1998. Curiously, she was not present in court during either trial, but I was, as his defense attorney. The first trial ended in a hung jury on May 8, 1998. The second trial ended in Willie's acquittal on all charges exactly six weeks later, on June 19, 1998. He was put on a plane two days later and has never returned to Aurora, as his life continued to be in danger. Of the twenty four jurors selected in the two trials, eighteen found him not guilty by reason of self-defense. Some of them have kept in touch with me since the trials.
Addressing the lies contained in Knautz's letter about Willie: he was not in a gang, as testified to by the gang expert from the Aurora Police Department who we called as an expert witness. His two cousins were in a gang, and apparently the five men who threatened and tried to shoot Willie and his family consistently over a long period thought that he was. Willie never "wreaked havoc on the community," as a nun and others testified to his job and pursuit of a Catholic school education for the specific purpose of staying away from gang members.
A neighbor boy who testified at both trials told the two juries of seeing a car come down the alley next to Willie's house. He told them of seeing the passenger door open, and the barrel of a gun emerge in the hand of the passenger. Willie himself told the juries that he saw that, too, and reached into a van parked next to the house where he knew there was a gun, while his brother and the other children present in the back yard screamed and took cover. He told them how, at the age of fifteen, he had to take the life of another human being. That man, who was in his twenties, had recently moved to Aurora from California, and the evidence showed that he had been active in gangs in the Los Angeles area, and was trying to recruit in Aurora. His eyelids bore two tattoos: "fuck" on the right, and "you" on the left. I held that picture up to both juries during closing arguments. I would do so again.
Knautz's other lie about Willie Rodriguez concerns her statement that he "decided to go get a gun instead of going to call the police." Had she been present at either trial, she would have heard numerous Aurora police officers testify that Willie had in fact consistently reported acts of violence against him and his family to the police, including that very day, when he told two officers of the car continually cruising down the alley next to his house, and his fear of its purpose. That is the beauty of being in court: you actually know what happened after listening to the witnesses. There were over twenty defense witnesses called at each trial.
Lying in print about the facts of a case of which you know nothing only goes to show that personal vendettas are just that. I am proud to have represented Willie Rodriguez, and am even prouder that he lived to go free.
Kathleen Colton, Attorney at Law