Judge dismisses charges against Greeley municipal court judge, at prosecutor’s request
September 14, 2017
A Weld County judge Thursday afternoon dismissed a misdemeanor charge against a Greeley municipal court judge, and sealed records related to the offense.
Brandilynn Nieto in August was issued a summons on suspicion of official misconduct. She was also removed from the bench as a municipal court judge.
From the beginning, officials were unusually reticent about the case. The most direct explanation of the facts of the case came from Cpl. Matt Turner, then-spokesman for the Weld County Sheriff's office, the agency that investigated the alleged misconduct. Turner told The Tribune Nieto "used her position to have some of her employees go online and make comments that would benefit a local company."
The Larimer County District Attorney's office handled the case, to avoid any possible conflict of interest. This past month the office refused a Tribune request for more information, saying the case was under investigation. Jodi Lacey, spokeswoman for the office, declined to say which agency was investigating, although Weld County Sheriff Steve Reams confirmed his deputies had finished with the case. Lacey did not offer any more information about the facts of the case.
In court Thursday, Emily Humphrey, a prosecutor from the Larimer County District Attorney's office, called Nieto's conduct "questionable, bordering on unethical," but said she did not feel a criminal element could be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. She asked Weld County Judge Charles Unfug to dismiss the charge, a request he granted.
Nieto also asked to seal the records related to the case, which was legal because the charge against her was dismissed. Unfug granted that request as well. Sealed records are not available to the public.
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Lacey, spokeswoman for the Larimer County District Attorney's office, did not immediately return a call requesting more information.
Reached by phone Thursday evening, Derek Samuelson, Nieto's attorney, said the past few weeks have been difficult for Nieto and her family, but said they are relieved the system worked as it should.
"Every day on the bench…Nieto asks people to put their faith in the justice system," Samuelson said. "The shoe has certainly been on the other foot, and she's had to put her faith in the system. She's relieved and she's grateful the system worked as it should."
As the municipal judge, Nieto reports to the Greeley City Council. That body will have to decide whether she will continue to serve as a municipal judge, said Greeley Mayor Tom Norton. He said he did not know the facts of the case, so he was unable to comment on how likely it is that Nieto will return to the bench.
"The council as a whole will be addressing that issue," Norton said. "It'd be crazy for me to say what everyone on the council is going to do since I'm only one vote."
Norton said the city's attorney, Doug Marek, will review the case. In an executive session, the council will then decide on a course of action. Norton said he hoped Marek will be able to review the case within a few weeks.
"We want to make sure we don't make any mistakes," he said. "We tread lightly and carefully in making these decisions."