Former Adams County sheriff pleads guilty to felony and misdemeanors, sentenced to supervised probation

Ben Markus/CPR News
Former Adams County Sheriff Rich Reigenborn (left) and his attorney, Douglas Jewell, exit a Denver County courtroom after he pleaded guilty to a felony and misdemeanor charges related to falsifying training records. May 2, 2024.

As his law enforcement career officially ended, former Adams County Sheriff Rick Reigenborn stood at a defense table Thursday in a proceeding, not unlike the ones he had sent thousands of defendants to endure during his 31 years with a badge. 

Gone was the pressed uniform of his days as an elected sheriff, along with the four stars on either side of his collar, the service ribbon and badge. Instead, he wore a nondescript black coat and tie.

Reigenborn, 60, stood erect, and the formerly loquacious, colorful ex-sheriff answered the judge’s questions in a soft, contrite monotone as he pleaded guilty in Denver District Court to a felony forgery charge and two misdemeanors.

“I sincerely apologize,” he told Judge Ericka Englert on Thursday. “I did make a mistake. I paid for that dearly and I continue to pay for that and will for the rest of my life. I apologized to the men and women of Adams County, to the (Attorney General’s) office and to the citizens of Adams County.” 

Reigenborn was charged in 2023 for falsifying training records and attempting to influence public servants by creating phony records of online and live law enforcement training that he never completed during his one and only term as Adams’ elected sheriff.

He was charged in the scheme alongside two of his former top brass, including his undersheriff Tommy McLallen. 

Mickey Bethel was Reigenborn’s head of training and was charged with felony counts of forgery, attempting to influence a public servant, conspiracy to commit forgery and conspiracy to attempt to influence a public servant. McLallen, charged with the same counts, also took a plea deal earlier this year and was sentenced to two years probation. Bethel pleaded not guilty on Thursday.

Prosecutors from the state Attorney General’s office alleged Reigenborn, McLallen and Bethel signed various training rosters for classes they did not attend and submitted training certificates to the state Peace Officer Standards and Training office. 

They did this in order to count fictitious training toward their 2021 mandatory arrest control tactics, firearms and driving training, prosecutors said.

On Thursday, Reigenborn was sentenced to 12 months probation for the various charges. It will be supervised and served concurrently. If Reigenborn fulfills his probation requirements in the year, the felony charge gets wiped clean.

Reigenborn also agreed to write apology letters to the state Peace Officer Standards and Training Board and the Adams County Sheriff’s Office. He will also have to give up his state license to serve in law enforcement in Colorado.

Assistant Attorney General Gwenn Sandrock told the judge that Reigenborn set a bad example in the top job.

“The bottom line is that when someone is elected to protect and serve a community, the responsibility goes very far, very deep,” Sandrock said. “That goes down to even making sure your training hours are accurate. Sometimes, when you’re in this position, a position of leadership, it’s newer, bad decisions can be made. But that becomes a crime when there is a delay in accountability when there is a delay in blowing your own whistle essentially.”

Sandrock did say though that she read Reigenborn’s letters and felt like he was sorry.

“Mr. Reigenborn has taken accountability. He's doing it now,” she said. “He's done it through the letter that was submitted to our office. I personally have seen some remorse in that letter.”

Throughout the 25-minute hearing, no one addressed Reigenborn as “sheriff” except his attorney.

Reigenborn lost his primary for re-election after CPR News first reported about the sheriff and his top staffers facing a criminal investigation by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation. He served one term in the top job.

Current Sheriff Gene Claps’ office did not have an immediate comment on Thursday. A spokesman said he hadn’t seen an apology letter yet.

Reigenborn’s attorney, Doug Jewell, told Englert that Reigenborn had suffered physically and emotionally since being charged last year. 

He suffered a heart attack seven days after the charges were filed in September. And he turned himself into the Denver County Jail and spent a few hours there “with everything that entailed,” he said.

Reigenborn was also previously prohibited from making contact with any past or present employee in the current sheriff’s office, which cut him off from some funerals and all his close friends, Jewell said.

“We submit that the punishment, any possible punishment, is already baked into the charges and the conditions,” he said, with Reigenborn standing behind him. “He now has a significant criminal record.”

Jewell called the entire scheme a misunderstanding for his client which started in June 2021. He told the judge that Reigenborn was out at the training facility doing firearms, arrest control and driving. 

Reigenborn had just finished a driving exercise and asked the instructor what he needed to do for arrest control. The instructor, whom Jewell didn’t name, told his boss that he was “good” and dismissed him.

“The trainer had been trained by then-Sheriff Reigenborn, who himself was a trainer in law enforcement,” Jewell told the judge. “So he ended up signing off. He did not appreciate at the time the seriousness, but he certainly does now.”

Reigenborn didn’t answer questions outside the Denver County courtroom when he left with Jewell.