Colorado’s top federal prosecutor resigns to return to private sector

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
U.S. Attorney Cole Finegan talks during a press conference Wednesday, June 1, 2022, at Colorado State Patrol headquarters in Golden about a sharp rise in fentanyl seizures and prosecutions in the state.

Cole Finegan, Colorado’s top federal prosecutor appointed by President Joe Biden, is stepping down in a few weeks to return to the private sector. 

Finegan was appointed the U.S. attorney for the District of Colorado in September 2021 and started after his Senate confirmation. He is a longtime Democratic aide and corporate lawyer and has worked for former Colorado Gov. Roy Romer, then-Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper and U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, when Bennet led Denver Public Schools. 

Finegan didn’t grant interviews on Wednesday. In a press release, he thanked the career prosecutors he served with in the last three years.

“We are fortunate to have these outstanding public servants in our state,” he said, in a statement. “Serving the people of Colorado alongside them will always remain one of the most significant experiences of my life.”

Finegan’s last day is at the end of this month.

Jason Dunn, a former Colorado U.S. Attorney under former President Donald Trump, said on Wednesday that it is not atypical for the Department of Justice to ask their state prosecutors to leave now if they are not planning to stick around for the remainder of an election year. The Wyoming U.S. attorney also resigned and his last day is also May 31, 2024.

The state U.S. Attorney's Offices represent the federal government in criminal or civil court and charge cases ranging from drug and gun trafficking to hate crimes. 

Club Q Shooting Colorado Springs
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
U.S Attorney Cole Finegan speaks during a press conference about the mass shooting at Club Q in the Colorado Springs Police Department's headquarters. Nov. 20, 2022.

Finegan noted in the press release he was proud of the guilty plea for hate crimes he negotiated with the man who killed five people and injured 19 others at Club Q, a gay nightclub in Colorado Springs. 

He’s also proud of his office’s crackdowns on fentanyl dealers who were proven to have distributed drugs to people who died and the many cases they prosecuted Coloradans who had been found to have committed fraud for COVID-19 relief funds that came from the federal government.

Matt Kirsch, a longtime career federal prosecutor based in Denver, will be the interim U.S. attorney for up to 120 days before the president can appoint a replacement, who will also be subject to consent by the U.S. Senate.