A man who tried to run for mayor in Ridgway has been banned from contact with a woman who accused him of accosting her at a liquor store in May and continuing to harass her online and by impersonating her.
County Court Judge Kurt Beckenhauer granted a permanent restraining order prohibiting David Gottorff from any contact with Shannon Marjenhoff, after a five-hour hearing Monday in Ouray County Court.
Marjenhoff testified she was afraid of Gottorff and feared retaliation from him after an incident at San Juan Liquors on May 22, which began after she said hello to him without realizing who he was, since he was wearing a mask.
According to testimony from a liquor store employee, Christian Thomsen, Gottorff then yelled at Marjenhoff and was “acting aggressive toward her” in the parking lot when they encountered each other. Thomsen said he heard Gottorff yelling at her about something posted on the Internet, approached Marjenhoff and started recording her with his phone.
Thomsen unlocked the liquor store door, inviting Marjenhoff inside and locking the door behind her before asking her if she wanted to call police.
The Ridgway Marshal’s Office responded, but there was no citation issued. Gottorff eventually left the scene and came back later for his vehicle. Gottorff also called police and reported he was the one being harassed.
Gottorff, who represented himself in court, asked Thomsen if he saw him make physical contact with her or assault her.
“Nope, only verbally,” Thomsen said.
“OK, I didn’t ask about that,” Gottorff said.
Marjenhoff said she’d never met Gottorff in person but recognized him from his postings online, particularly his campaign Facebook page when he ran for mayor. She also told the court she posted comments about Gottorff online to make the public aware he was running for office, and of his reputation in other communities where he lived previously.
Two days after the incident at the liquor store, Marjenhoff started receiving phone calls from moving companies across the U.S. with quotes for her to move to Louisiana. These included a “crazy inventory list” of 10 grandfather clocks and other odd items, she said. She estimated she received about 100 phone calls from companies responding to an inquiry using an old email address and her phone number, which she didn’t submit. One moving company representative from Florida told her, “Someone must be very mad at you,” she told the court. She said this started on the same day she began to be harassed online.
In a May 24 Ridgway Independent News post, Gottorff called Marjenhoff a “failed artist” and a “serial predator,” and also posted Marjenhoff’s home address.
When asked about postings on the Ridgway Independent News former Facebook account and Twitter account, Gottorff initially said he was a staff writer, and declined to name anyone else associated with the entity.
“Who else is associated with Ridgway Independent News other than just you?” asked attorney Roger Sagal, who was representing Marjenhoff.
“Maybe just me,” Gottorff responded.
Sagal asked again who else is associated, and Gottorff said, “No one.”
“It’s your webpage,” Sagal later stated.
“Sure,” Gottorff said, and confirmed he alone created the social media pages associated with the entity.
When asked where he got the information about Marjenhoff, Gottorff said Sue Williamson provided it to him in February. Williamson is a cosmetologist who lives in the area.
“She provided me with a lot of things,” he said, including emails, recordings and posts from social media.
Williamson testified she contacted Gottorff months ago, after seeing comments Marjenhoff made online which she considered bullying and slander.
Williamson, who calls herself a “guerrilla journalist,” told the court she regularly provides information to Gottorff and has a habit of recording conversations she has with others. Because Colorado is a single-party consent state, this is legal. She told the court she has “hundreds of hours” of recordings and has recorded people without their knowledge “many” times.
“She has provided me with recordings of individuals,” Gottorff told the court.
Gottorff initially said he wanted to testify. But after the judge explained he would have to be under oath and be subject to cross examination, he said he would rather proceed to closing arguments. Gottorff alleged Marjenhoff has a long history of defamation and libel and that she committed perjury on the form requesting the restraining order, checking a box stating there was a physical assault, which didn’t happen.
Sagal asked Beckenhauer to grant the permanent restraining order not only to protect Marjenhoff, but to send a message to Gottorff that his behavior needs to stop.
“This is getting to be a very dangerous pattern of behavior, and we’re seeing the exact same things play out in this case as we did in the Colorado Boy case and we did in the Western Slope Rides case,” said Sagal. “If he isn’t restrained, he will continue to do these things.”
Beckenhauer agreed with Sagal and granted the permanent order, stating if he didn’t restrain him from contact with Marjenhoff, “Mr. Gottorff is likely to engage in similar acts.”
This is the third permanent restraining order granted against Gottorff this year – he’s also been banned from contact with his former employer, Andy Michelich of Western Slope Rides, as well as Colorado Boy locations and employees. The court granted those permanent restraining orders after hearing evidence Gottorff retaliated against Michelich and the brewpub. Gottorff also has a pending criminal harassment case involving an altercation with Michelich at Colorado Boy in Ridgway in November.
On Monday morning, Gottorff had another hearing regarding the pending harassment case, which was scheduled for jury trial this month. However, an order issued on June is postponed most jury trials due to COVID-19, and has granted few waivers for jury trials to be held while restrictions are in place.
Gottorff asked Beckenhauer for a trial in August and said he didn’t want to waive his rights to a speedy trial. He also said if the trial couldn’t be held in August, he wanted the case dismissed.
However, the judge denied that request, citing a pending complaint Gottorff filed in district court to protest the court’s decision to not provide him an attorney. Instead, he stayed the proceedings and vacated the trial for now. Beckenhauer said procedural rules made it impossible for him to move forward with setting a trial date with Gottorff’s complaint pending.
“What you’re putting forth are two things that are mutually exclusive,” Beckenhauer said, adding he couldn’t set a trial date if Gottorff extended the proceedings by filing the complaint about not having a court-appointed attorney.
Upon hearing that his pending complaint prevented the court from granting a speedy trial, Gottorff repeatedly interrupted the judge with pleas that he would withdraw his complaint that day.
“I will submit it right now before the hearing is over,” he said, interrupting the judge several times.
“Mr. Gottorff, I am directing you to stop talking and listen to me,” Beckenhauer said. “You continue to assert two things that cannot happen at the same time.”
Gottorff previously told the court he might withdraw the complaint at a June 25 hearing, but had not done so at the time of the hearing on Monday. Gottorff argued the court and the public defender’s office gave him no notice of the conflict.
“Mr. Gottorff, it’s not accurate to say the court gave you no notice,” Beckenhauer said. Regarding his promise to withdraw the complaint, he said, “I’m not confident that you would follow through on that.”
At this time, proceedings are stalled until a decision is made on Gottorff’s interlocutory appeal regarding representation. After the district court issues a decision, the courts have go days to hold his trial.
Gottorff previously applied to have a public defender represent him, after he hired another attorney from Telluride to represent him in a counterclaim against Colorado Boy and Michelich when they sought the restraining orders. But he later said he didn’t want an attorney from the public defender’s office and instead wanted the courts to appoint an alternate attorney to represent him. Defense attorneys from outside the public defender’s office are usually appointed only if there’s a conflict of interest for a public defender.
The courts found he didn’t meet the financial qualifications to have an attorney appointed, something he protests.
“I do not want to be represented by the public defender’s office, but I do believe that I’m indigent,” Gottorff said on Monday. He added he didn’t believe the public defender’s office “dutifully represented” him.