To: Sheriff George Epp Boulder County Sheriff's Office
I am writing this memo to you to formally lodge a complaint against Detective Steve Ainsworth of the Boulder County Sheriff's Office. I did not want to take this step, but given the recent and continued actions of Steve Ainsworth in regards to the JonBenét murder investigation, I now feel I have no choice. I believe Detective Steve Ainsworth, in continually discussing theories of an open homicide investigation of our agency, in openly being critical of our investigation, and in repeatedly fostering inaccurate descriptions of our investigation, has not only violated Sheriff's Office policy, but has violated ethical and professional standards of policing, as well as being a departure from the truth. Furthermore, I believe Steve Ainsworth's actions will one day make it more difficult to bring a prosecution against anyone who may be charged in this case. Let me describe the series of events that lead me to these conclusions.
Sometime in 1997, Steve Ainsworth was loaned to the Boulder County DA's Office to assist with the analysis and review of evidence in the JonBenét Ramsey case. According to then DA Alex Hunter, Ainsworth's role was that of an evaluator of the case facts and evidence as known at that time. His job was to look at evidence from a "defense perspective" and evaluate that evidence. His role was not as a primary investigator assigned to do original investigation on the case. He was not assigned to the Boulder Police Department and did not answer to anyone at the Boulder Police Department.
I came on the case in October 1997. At that time, Steve Ainsworth was still assisting the DA's Office, as was Lou Smit. I had very little contact with Ainsworth and never directed him in any manner or fashion as to how he should fulfill his responsibilities. In late 1998, prior to the grand jury investigation, Ainsworth stopped working on the case and to my knowledge has not worked on the case since. He has not had access to the hundreds of pages of new information developed since that time, nor to lab results, grand jury results, or expert analysis. Nor, I might add, has he had knowledge as to whom we have or have not investigated and how we have conducted our investigation.
On or about September 26, 1998, after Lou Smit resigned from the investigation, Steven Ainsworth found it necessary to publicly criticize the investigation being conducted by the Boulder Police Department. In an article by Matt Sebastian in the Boulder Daily Camera, Ainsworth was quoted as stating, "Lou Smit was a proponent of investigation. He came in here wanting to investigate all the things Boulder police hadn't, and that included the intruder theory, among other things." Not only was this statement insulting to the fine men and women who have worked so diligently on this case (and many other experts, including the FBI), but it was simply not true. At the time, I called you and verbally expressed my concern and surprise over a fellow law enforcement professional making such comments on an active investigation. You assured me at that time that it was the policy of the Sheriff's Office that you or your members do not comment on another agency's active investigation. You also assured me that you had talked with Ainsworth and that such public comment would not happen again.
Then, I believe it was in 1999, I learned that Ainsworth was assisting in the making of a movie about the JonBenét murder. This again surprised me, given the previous incident and our subsequent conversation. Assisting in the making of a movie in any manner of a case that was still active and that one had worked on, created ethical questions for our investigators and others in the investigation. Especially given the close relationship our two departments enjoy. I again contacted you, at which time you advised me that he was not discussing details or evidence, but was a "technical advisor." I was not too comfortable with this, but let it go at that.
In the latest incident, Ainsworth appeared on national TV last week (April 30-May 4) as part of a five-part special aired by NBC's the Today Show. Prior to this show airing, I contacted you with information that Ainsworth was to appear on the show. You left a return voicemail message on or about Monday, April 23, 2001, advising me that Ainsworth had come to you and requested permission to speak with NBC, but that all he was to talk about was the kind of detective/person Lou Smit was. On 5/2/01, after our county Chief's meeting, when I expressed concern over what was being said and told you I would probably file a complaint, you again told me that all Ainsworth said he would talk about was Smit's character. After reviewing all segments that aired last week, I can now tell you that is not all he talked about. In fact, he spoke very little about Lou Smit, but was instead talking about what the evidence meant to him, was critical of the BPD, and even expressed his own personal opinion. This would clearly be in violation of your stated policy, and also a departure from the truth, as he had advised you he would only be talking about Lou Smit. I also find it to be unethical and unprofessional.
Following are the quotes from Ainsworth's appearances last week, along with my comments. A copy of the videotape is included with this memo as evidence. I believe the days of the week are accurate as to when they appeared on the Today Show.
I'm not sure where this comes from. As stated above, he was not working for the BPD and his role was defined by the District Attorney. Did he not understand his role or position in the investigation?
"I have not seen any evidence that would be compelling to suggest that John and Patsy did kill their daughter at this point. And the evidence to me certainly suggests that someone committed the murder other than them."
It is astounding that he could make this statement on an active investigation. Again, this is a clear violation of stated Sheriff's Office policy and one that may someday be detrimental to a prosecution. This also has nothing to do with Lou Smit or his character.
On possible family involvement...
"I think that he became not necessarily overzealous, but he had difficulty in shaking that way of investigation because if you do it for awhile, it's very difficult to make that transition."
These two statements have nothing to do with Lou Smit, but instead are simply critical of a former investigator and through association, all the investigators who have worked on this case, with the exception of course Lou Smit, Trip DeMuth, and himself. Regardless of Steve's approach, there were many experienced investigators working this investigation who were and have been analyzing all the evidence.
Ainsworth: "Very risky. Could be part of the thrill for him - the risk of getting caught."
Couric: "Do you think this is a kidnapping that went awry somehow?"
Ainsworth: "That's my own personal feeling, that it is."
Again, nothing here about Lou Smit or what kind of person he is, and Ainsworth clearly expresses his own personal opinion.
Once again, there is nothing about Lou Smit's personality or character in this statement. Furthermore, I want to add that Ainsworth was never in any of our investigator meetings once I became involved in the investigation, nor did he accompany any of our investigators during their follow-up investigations. He can not possibly have personal knowledge of what went on, or what investigation was conducted. I might also add that Ainsworth has never had the courtesy to talk to me about any concerns he ever had over the investigation. I, like most people, learned about his feelings and opinions through the media.
In response to a question about Lou Smit's praying with the Ramseys...
At least this statement does speak about Lou Smit.
In response to the question of how could an entire police department be so narrowly focused on one theory? "Well, I don't know the answer to that, um, I could tell you. I probably shouldn't though. I mean, what my opinion is - cause it would get me in a whole lot of trouble."
Since his appearance on television last week. I have seen other articles now making references to the opinions and statements made by Ainsworth. His comments will now live on and be replayed and quoted for months, maybe years to come. As a long time, experienced law enforcement officer, I'm sure you can see how such statements could impact an investigation and subsequently a successful prosecution, regardless of who is ever charged in this case.
It is my belief and allegation that Steve Ainsworth's public statements on the Today Show about our investigation have violated ethical and professional standards, violated the stated Sheriff's Office policy of not publicly commenting on other agency's active cases, and constituted a departure from the truth between what he told you he was going to say and what he actually said.
In filing this complaint on behalf of the Boulder Police Department and all the outstanding men and women who have worked so hard on this case, I am asking for three things:
1. That Steve Ainsworth be appropriately disciplined for his misconduct.
2. That the Boulder Police Department receive a formal written apology.
3. That the Boulder Police Department receive in writing an assurance that this type of public disclosure will not occur again.
I will also recommend to Commander Bill Kingston (Louisville PD) that Steve Ainsworth be removed from the County Shoot Team. Given his willingness to openly discuss and criticize investigations, I find that he can no longer be trusted to conduct confidential investigations. I do not believe we can take the chance that in a highly charged, emotional investigation as is sometimes presented in shooting situations, that an investigator will make inappropriate public comments that could jeopardize a finding or prosecution in the case. Regardless of whether he is actually removed from the team, I will advise Commander Kingston that under no circumstances will he be allowed to participate in any investigations under the city's jurisdiction.
Finally, I have advised our Investigations Commander, Joe Pelle, that our investigators are not to share any information of a confidential matter with Steve Ainsworth. We will not allow him to participate in any future Boulder Police-Sheriff's Office joint investigations that are under the city's jurisdiction.
I have not filed this complaint or made these decisions lightly. In fact, I believe I have been very tolerant of past indiscretions by Steve Ainsworth, as noted above. However, I feel as though I have been given no other choice, as the public comments, personal opinions and criticisms from a member of the Sheriff's Office have not stopped.
Please be assured that I value the strong working relationship our two agencies enjoy and want it to continue and even grow. With the exception of Steve Ainsworth, we remain committed to working closely with all members of your agency. I think you have a fine, professional group of officers and investigators, and I certainly respect work they all do.
Thank you for your attention to this matter.
Mark R. Beckner
Cc: Steve Ainsworth, Ron Secrist, Jim Hughes, Dave Hayes