By Carlos Illescas
The Denver Post
POSTED: 04/07/2010 01:00:00 AM MDT
LITTLETON — The City Council fired longtime Municipal Judge James Kimmel on Tuesday night after he issued an arrest warrant for a teenager who had an overdue $30 DVD from a local library.
Council members had offered Kimmel a chance to resign and receive a severance package. But when he refused, they said they had little choice but to let him go.
"I'm disappointed and saddened the situation has reached this stage," Councilman Bruce Stahlman said.
Kimmel, a municipal judge for almost 30 years, was not at Tuesday's meeting. He refused a request for comment from The Denver Post on Monday about his possible removal.
Aaron Henson, 19, checked out the DVD, "House of Flying Daggers," from the Bemis Public Library last year. He failed to return it in proper time after it got mixed in with boxes as he moved from Littleton to Lakewood.
On Dec. 23, Kimmel ordered that Henson appear in court Jan. 14 regarding the DVD. The summons was returned as undeliverable because Henson had moved, and he was never properly served.
When he failed to show, Kimmel issued a bench warrant for Henson's arrest.
On Jan. 25, Henson was pulled over in Jefferson County for speeding, and when the outstanding warrant came up, he was hauled off to jail, where he spent almost eight hours before his dad bailed him out.
Turns out, he returned the DVD to the library Jan. 7 — a week before Kimmel issued the warrant. The library sent a letter to the judge that same day notifying him that it had been returned.
That point concerned council members, as did the fact that Kimmel issued the warrant without Henson having been officially served with a summons to appear in court.
When city officials looked into prior cases, they found 71 similar incidents in which a warrant had been issued but had not been properly served.
Earlier Tuesday, Henson took blame for not returning the DVD and hoped his actions would not cost Kimmel his job.
"He's a great judge," Henson said. "I heard a lot of good things about him. I honestly don't want them to fire him over this."
In a joint statement read at Tuesday's meeting, the council said Kimmel's "lack of good judgment" in the Henson case and the other cases caused it to lose confidence in his ability to serve as municipal judge.
Carlos Illescas: 303-954-1175 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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