After intense scrutiny, no evidence emerges of wrongdoing by Hancock

The Colorado Statesman

A week after winning election as Denver’s next mayor, City Councilman Michael Hancock was working round the clock to deflect allegations that surfaced in the closing days of the campaign that he purchased the services of high-class prostitutes several years ago.

While Hancock has vehemently denied any involvement with the defunct Denver Players escort service, the city’s sole daily newspaper and its partner television news operation negotiated a deal to review hundreds of pages of Hancock’s cell phone records and announced they could find no link between his phone and the prostitutes. Meanwhile, Denver’s other TV newsrooms rejected Hancock’s offer to examine the records, citing conditions they said were overly restrictive.

“Staying true to my promise for openness and transparency, I provided the Denver Post and 9News with thousands of pages of my personal cell phone records — fully disclosed and unedited,” Hancock said in a statement on Wednesday. “The records cover a period of time spanning four years, and the review found nothing to substantiate these hateful allegations against me. In addition, I have provided the news media with my calendar records, and the Denver Police Department has stated it has no evidence to support these allegations.”

The bizarre events played out on the front page of the Denver Post over several days this week. In its first mention of the allegations, the paper declared on June 11 that Hancock had “reneged” on a deal to allow the newspaper and reporters from 9News unrestricted access to his cell phone logs. While the Hancock campaign disputed the Post’s characterization of the negotiations, eventually both sides came to terms and on June 14 the news organizations delivered their verdict: “Nothing incriminating in Hancock cell records.”

The conclusion came after 10 reporters from the Post and 9News spent more than nine hours ensconced in a law office poring over what they described as nearly 1,000 pages of cell phone records covering the months surrounding alleged visits by Hancock to the prostitutes.

The day after the Post announced the results of its inquiry, Denver’s three other TV news operations said they had chafed at the conditions proposed by Hancock’s team and declined to review the phone logs. (The Colorado Statesman was given the opportunity to examine Hancock’s cell phone records under the same terms offered the larger news organizations but, with just a single reporter on hand, calculated it would take until sometime in July to complete anything more than a cursory look at the documents.)

The allegations against Hancock were first published — five days before the June 7 runoff election — by the conservative blog Complete Colorado. The blog’s editor wrote that unnamed sources provided him with copies of a roster of Denver Players clients and excerpts from appointment books listing a “Michael Handcock” as a paying customer, along with Hancock’s personal cell phone number. Although the purported records included a notation that “Handcock” always called from pay phones, the escort service’s former owner, Scottie Ewing — who turned out to be the source of the documents cited by Complete Colorado — later contended that the business verified the identities of clients by calling numbers they could be assured belonged to them.

The call-girl operation was shut down by federal investigators in early 2008 following a probe that ensnared former U.S. District Court Judge Edward Nottingham, who stepped down from the bench after his name was linked to the prostitution service.

“These baseless rumors were addressed and disproven in 2008,” Hancock spokeswoman Amber Miller said this week. “Someone dredged these false claims back up in the waning days of the mayoral campaign to smear Michael’s character and alter the outcome of the election. Nothing has changed. These were untrue rumors in 2008 and they are untrue rumors in 2011.”

She was referring to allegations linking Hancock to the Denver Players investigation at around the time Nottingham resigned.

Following requests from news organizations and the Hancock campaign, Denver police said they didn’t have any surveillance images of Hancock or his car near any of the Denver Players brothels. Federal authorities, who prosecuted cases involving the prostitution services, have declined to say whether they have any evidence involving Hancock.

“This story was shopped to several news organizations in the final days of the election by convicted felon who admits he has an agenda against Michael,” Miller added.

Ewing is serving a sentence of home detention on charges he failed to pay taxes on the sale of the prostitution business. He told KHOW-AM radio host Peter Boyles he was motivated to finger Hancock after seeing the candidate tout his family values on television during the mayoral campaign.

In another strange twist, Ewing reported on the day before the election that the records he kept from his prostitution business were stolen from his south Denver home by burglars while he was tending to business at a swinger’s club he now owns.