Zinna, defendants continue to spar in wiretapping suit

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By AJ Vicens

As defendants seek to have a lawsuit by longtime county critic Mike Zinna dismissed, Zinna continues to claim the wiretapping allegations should bring millions in damages.

Former county commissioner Jim Congrove is among a handful of defendants in the federal wiretapping lawsuit. Zinna alleges that Congrove, private investigator Daril Cinquanta, former assistant county attorney Duncan Bradley and Robert Cook illegally intercepted his e-mails and posted them on the Internet in an effort to defame him and ruin his business dealings. That civil lawsuit, filed in 2006, does not include the county as a defendant.

"I'm going to seek $50 million in damages," Zinna said after an April 8 court hearing in Denver.

Zinna filed a previous lawsuit against Congrove and the county commissioners in 2005, alleging they infringed on his constitutional rights. In that case, U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch ruled in May 2008 that Zinna couldn't prove the county had any official policy of retaliating against him, and that his claims should be addressed to Congrove individually.

Zinna says damages would be based on the number of times the intercepted material was viewed by different people. The material was posted to a website that Zinna says was created to defame him. He says the site was viewed thousands of times.

The county has long denied the basis of Zinna's claims, saying he's upset because the county wouldn't allow a development company he worked with in 2005 to develop land at the county's airport. Congrove could not be reached for comment.

Attorneys for the defendants in the wiretapping case also believe the suit is frivolous. The April 8 hearing before U.S. Magistrate Craig Shaffer came after defense attorneys filed a motion to halt discovery until Shaffer rules on a motion to dismiss the case, which was filed in January.

Andrew McLetchie, one of Bradley's attorneys, told the judge that the motion to dismiss the case is "a winner" because Zinna didn't file the wiretapping lawsuit within the statute of limitations.

"There's no need for scorched-earth discovery when there's a good chance the case will be dismissed," McLetchie said.

Zinna told the court that once he found out about a website that contained his private e-mails, he determined who registered it — Robert Cook — and filed his lawsuit. Any delay in adding Congrove, Cinquanta and Bradley as defendants was because they wanted it that way, he claims.

"This operation from its very inception was clandestine in nature," Zinna said. "The evidence against these defendants is overwhelming," he added, pointing to seven independent people who've submitted affidavits claiming first-hand knowledge of a conspiracy to defame him. "I had to wait until I had rock-solid evidence."

McLetchie said the evidence is irrelevant.

"I don't think there was fraudulent concealment, but if there was, it doesn't matter," McLetchie said, citing the expired statute of limitations.

Shaffer noted that Zinna has been frustrated from the outset by Cook's refusal to respond to motions or appear for hearings. When Cook did participate, by showing up at hearings or filing motions, he told Shaffer that the court had no jurisdiction over him anyway, since he was a "sovereign American."

"It was an exceedingly difficult process," Shaffer said. "Cook would file motions that in some cases were incomprehensible."

Shaffer said discovery would move forward between Zinna and Cinquanta but put a halt to discovery for the other defendants until he rules on the motion to dismiss.

Contact AJ Vicens at aj@evergreenco.com, and check www.columbinecourier.com for updates and breaking news.