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State senator indicted, accused of lying about his official residence

State Sen. Pete Lee, an El Paso County Democrat, was indicted on Aug. 3 and has been removed from his interim committee assignments.

DENVER — Democratic State Sen. Pete Lee, who represents a district in El Paso County, faces a felony charge of knowingly giving false information about where he lived while voting.

An El Paso County grand jury indicted Lee on Aug. 3 on one count of providing false information on his residence, a Class 5 felony, the 4th Judicial District Attorney's Office said on Tuesday.

The indictment alleges that "on or about March 3, 2020, Lee voted giving false information regarding the elector's place of present residence."

In question is whether Lee actually lived at a small home he owns inside his district or whether he lived at a larger home outside the district. His wife lives at the larger home.

Lee, a progressive Democrat who was elected to the state Senate in 2018, has focused his career on criminal justice reform and restorative justice.

Lee released a statement through an attorney that did not explicitly deny the charge. The statement noted that the district attorney is a Republican and said the case was a waste of resources.

"The charge will be vigorously challenged," Lee's attorney's statement read, in part.

A spokesperson for the Colorado Democratic Party declined to comment, saying the party just became aware of the situation.

An audio recording obtained by 9NEWS suggests that's not true.

In the 2020 recording, Lee is overheard in conversation after the Senate has adjourned but the streaming video continued.

"I've got this God-damned residency challenge thing," Lee said. "I'm really stressed out about that to be honest with you."

On the recording, Lee acknowledges that he does not spend the night at the house in his district.

Lee is heard saying that now Senate President Steve Fenberg referred him to Martha Tierney, counsel for the Colorado Democratic Party, for help with the residency challenge.

"She did some original good research and she turned me on to John Buckley who she worked with very closely who's also a criminal defense attorney," Lee said. "He doesn't think there's really enough to nail me on that."

Fenberg's spokesperson did not respond to questions about the 2020 conversation.

Today, Fenberg said Lee was removed from his interim committee assignments in the state Senate.

"Senator Pete Lee is a dedicated public servant who has spent his career supporting his community and working to improve the lives of all Coloradans," Fenberg said in a statement. "I trust he'll have a fair opportunity to be heard and that the legal process will allow for an airing of all of the facts. At his request, Senator Lee has been removed from his interim committee assignments until this matter is resolved."

In the most recent session, Lee was chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee and served on the committees for Legal Services; State, Veterans & Military Affairs, and Finance.

The first vocal defense of Lee from Colorado Democrats came from Rep. Matt Grey, who is not running for re-election after being arrested for DUI.

Grey called the grand jury indictment a "stunt."

"Pete Lee is a man of character, kindness and dignity," Grey tweeted Tuesday. "Joking around with the criminal justice system is cruel, wasteful and wrong."

Former Democratic State Representative Rochelle Galindo, who resigned in 2019 amid sexual misconduct allegations that did not result in criminal charges, alleged that the Colorado Democratic Party's silence on Lee's indictment indicated a double standard.

"Betcha the [Colorado Democratic Party] won't call for his resignation but they wanted my head on a platter for something I didn't even do," Galindo tweeted.

Democratic Governor Jared Polis' office did not respond when asked if Lee should remain in office.

Lee's time in the Colorado Senate will come to an end in the coming months. In the final year of his term, Lee had been redistricted into a district represented by a state senator with two years remaining on his term.

"It's a good thing Democrat Senator Pete Lee isn't running for re-election because he doesn't deserve to represent the people of Colorado for another term after blatantly lying to voters about his registration," said Colorado Republican Party chairwoman Kristi Burton Brown.

Lee's first court appearance will be Sept. 8, the District Attorney's Office said.

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