Senator Pete Lee Leads by a Poor Example

By Michael Fields

There is a lot to be said about politics and corruption in today’s polarized and disagreeable political environment. One thing we can all agree on is that lawmakers shouldn’t be law breakers.  

Case in point: State Senator Pete Lee, a Democrat from Colorado Springs in El Paso County. 

Senator Lee has been indicted by a grand jury on a Class 5 felony – charging him for falsifying his residence address for electoral purposes. If true, he should get in trouble and be held accountable to the rule of law. However, the soft-on-crime policies that he sponsored and supported in the legislature are even more troubling because they have put Coloradans in great danger. 

Lee, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, is known for his sponsorship of criminal justice reform legislation. But not the kind of “good” reforms we think about when we entrust our elected officials to pass legislation that should enhance our lives and our public safety. These are just plain bad reforms.

Here’s a list of some of the underlying “reforms” Senator Lee supported over the course of his tenure: Decriminalizing fentanyl in 2019; sponsoring a bill to increase the amount of personal recognizance (PR) bonds for offenders; voting to allow felons who are convicted drug dealers and aggravated motor vehicle thieves to possess firearms; co-sponsoring legislation (SB 217) that eliminated qualified immunity for police officers leading to demoralization of our state’s and county’s police force causing massive employment shortages for officers; consistently reducing our prison population creating an environment where violent criminals now only serve 40% of their sentence on average; and the list goes on. 

He’s said that as an elected official, he is acutely aware that public safety is his primary responsibility. Holding him to his own standard, he’s clearly failed. And while Senator Lee led these efforts, it took liberal legislators and the Governor supporting them too, so really every lawmaker that supported these reforms failed Colorado. 

As a result, Colorado is now one of the least safe states to live in across the United States. One could argue this is a direct result of Senator Lee’s failed policy agenda.

Colorado’s crime problem is at a 25-year high for violent crime.  We rank #1 in bank robberies, auto thefts, cocaine use, and increase in property crimes. We come in a close second on the increase in fentanyl deaths. And, let’s not forget to mention that Colorado has the 4th highest recidivism rate in the nation.  

The stories you hear are maddening. Take for instance the case of Michael Lee Sandoval. Just last week, he was out of jail on a personal recognizance bond when he made his way from Pueblo to Colorado Springs and allegedly car-jacked a new victim. He then allegedly  fled to Highlands Ranch, where he is accused of committing an armed robbery before finally being arrested in Denver. 

After the arrest and after being out on a PR bond in Pueblo for a robbery, a judge in Denver again released Sandoval. You guessed it –– with another PR bond, making him a free man only if he agrees to sign his name to a statement promising to show up for his next court visit.

As a father and husband, this is deeply troubling. We should feel safe where we live, but too many Coloradans don’t.  

Colorado has a long way to go to reform our criminal justice system so we can again restore our public safety.  We can and we must do better. And, reversing the bad policies Senator Lee championed would be a good first step in making Colorado safer. Colorado, we cannot afford to wait another day.   

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About the Author:

Michael Fields is a senior advisor for Advance Colorado Action