Editor’s note: David Gottorff was arrested again on May 12, on a warrant for alleged felony stalking. The case involves the neighbors who obtained the permanent protection order preventing Gottorff from contacting them, detailed in this article. He was released from the Montrose County Jail this week on $25,000 cash bond and currently has four cases pending in Ouray County District Court.
A Ridgway man who was already banned from businesses, convicted of harassment and court-ordered to stay away from others in the community has been ordered by a judge to leave his next-door neighbors alone.
Ouray County Judge Kurt Beckenhauer granted the permanent restraining order prohibiting David Gottorff from any contact with neighbors Spencer Fuller and Erin Graham and their business, Ridgway Office Supply, after a five-hour hearing. Roughly 30 community members showed up to support Fuller and Graham.
In that April 7 hearing, Beckenhauer heard testimony alleging Gottorff threw rocks at their house and caused damage, used a BB gun to shoot out a security camera, mimed shooting at them and threw eggs at their house and cars.
The neighbors also told the judge that they had been friendly until a conflict over a “straight pride” flag Gottorff displayed on his house. After Fuller confronted Gottorff about the flag and called Gottorff homophobic, the relationship deteriorated.
The hearing included testimony about dispute over a property line, a tree Fuller used to hang a sun shade which Gottorff untied, allegations that dog poop was placed on Gottorff’s property and a dispute over a candy wrapper with obscenities found on Gottorff’s property. The judge also heard about an incident in which Fuller and Graham’s dogs escaped their yard and they were cited for having dogs atlarge on Gottorff’s property.
Gottorff also alleged Fuller is responsible for an Instagram page in which he was disparaged, a claim Fuller denied. The judge said he was not convinced Fuller runs the “bob_in_sw_co” page which is “dedicated to debunking” another Instagram page Gottorff runs, targeting Colorado Boy brewery in Ridgway and encouraging people to boycott the business. Gottorff was banned from the brewery after he had a fight there with his former employer in 2019 and has since campaigned against Colorado Boy.
Fuller and Graham, who represented themselves in court and did not have an attorney, attempted to introduce video evidence of rocks being thrown at the house from the direction of Gottorff’s yard in the middle of the night. However, they were unable to follow the court procedures and establish a foundation for introducing that evidence. Gottorff was represented by Grand Junction attorney Arie Mielkus.
Mielkus argued the neighbors didn’t meet the standard for the permanent protection order. “He hasn’t done anything that would give the court grounds to grant an order of protection,” she said.
Gottorff claimed Fuller and Graham’s installation of security cameras viewing into his backyard were targeting him, and detailed the position of these cameras in his testimony.
Ultimately, the security cameras played into the judge’s decision to grant the permanent protection order barring Gottorff from contacting the neighbors or coming within 30 feet of them or their business. ***
Beckenhauer said it’s clear that what may have started as insults from Gottorff, such as obscene gestures toward Fuller and Graham, escalated into threatening behavior, and that it’s reasonable to infer that the actions alleged by Fuller and Graham came from Gottorff’s property and Gottorff himself.
“The escalating behavior, slingshotting rocks and shooting with a BB gun, is threatening behavior. The miming toward other people of those behaviors is threatening behavior and it is escalating behavior that constitutes sufficient grounds for the granting of the protection order,” he said.
The judge also indicated his experience with Gottorff in the past leads him to believe this behavior won’t stop.
The judge said he’s “entirely convinced” that “but for the protection order, and even with a protection order, Mr. Gottorff is likely to continue” with his threatening behavior.
He noted Fuller and Graham have installed cameras, and he recalled their testimony during the hearing that they’re careful when they’re in the backyard, which backs up to Gottorff’s property, and that they sometimes sleep at friends’ homes to avoid Gottorff.
“That’s all the type of behavior that’s consistent with someone who actually feels threatened, and I think there’s a basis for that,” Beckenhauer said.
While Beckenhauer said he didn’t think Fuller and Graham “have totally clean hands” in this dispute, he ultimately found they met the standard for issuing the permanent protection order.
When asked if he understood the protection order, Gottorff replied, “I do not acknowledge the legitimacy of this court.”
“That doesn’t alter that you’re subject to it,” Beckenhauer responded.
On Friday evening, after the judge granted the protection order, the marshal’s office received reports that Gottorff was riding a bike around Ridgway yelling, “F**k the justice system,” and got into a verbal altercation with the town manager in which he allegedly said he was going to raze the town. Neighbors also reported he has been open-carrying a firearm, according to the marshal’s office.
This isn’t the first time Gottorff has declared he’s not subject to authority from courts or law enforcement.
After previous rulings against him, he has alleged judicial misconduct and declared himself “emancipated” from the court’s authority. In social media posts, he also said he invoked the “right to defend himself from tyranny under declaration of war.”
The permanent restraining order is just the latest in a series of events involving Gottorff since he moved to Ridgway.
The Plaindealer first wrote about him in 2019 when he declared his candidacy for mayor, detailing a series of lawsuits Gottorff had filed against others and conflicts in the community.
He’s also been involved in lawsuits against San Juan Mountain Guides, which refused to hire him, and Rigs Fly Shop, which employed him for a brief time but terminated his employment.
He also filed lawsuits against Judge Beckenhauer, alleging judicial misconduct, and complained about the marshal’s office to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation and Attorney General’s office. He also filed a lawsuit against the Plaindealer, alleging libel, which was dismissed by a judge.
Gottorff was convicted by a jury in May 2021 of harassment, stemming from the 2019 incident in which he was accused of following his former boss, Andy Michelich, at Colorado Boy brewery and having a verbal fight with him.
When he delivered the sentence in the harassment case, Beckenhauer told Gottorff, “I do think you have an anger problem and for whatever reason you can’t let things go.”
He was sentenced to 12 months of supervised probation and 24 hours of community service, though the prosecutor asked the judge to order a suspended jail sentence. Beckenhauer did not impose any mandatory therapy or mental evaluations for Gottorff, but instead said the probation department could require this at its discretion.
“By being on supervised probation there will be resources to assist you and there will be accountability,” Beckenhauer said at the time.
But the probation never happened. Gottorff wasn’t supervised. And an evaluation wasn’t performed.
Instead, the probation department said a pending appeal Gottorff filed prevented them from supervising him or taking on his case.
That appeal is still pending.
In March 2021, Beckenhauer also found Gottorff was guilty of contempt of court after violating a protection order obtained by Colorado Boy when he continued to retaliate against the business, placing stickers with the business’ altered logo around the state. The logo has a miner sitting on a toilet and the words, “sh***y pizza and beer.”
At the time, Colorado Boy’s attorney, Roger Sagal, urged the court to impose more stringent punishment.
“Mr. Gottorff’s violations are numerous, escalatory in nature and continue to this day,” Sagal said, arguing all he had to do was stop harassing Colorado Boy. “Instead he seems to have made it his pastime or his hobby.”
The stickers continue to be placed around the state and the Instagram page urging people to boycott the brewery persists.
Gottorff has been arrested three times in the past month for alleged contempt of court and protection order violations. Those cases are pending.
Gottorff maintains his campaign against Colorado Boy is protected by the First Amendment as free speech, and that any attempt to impose sanctions on him is a violation of his rights and an “imminent threat to the publisher’s life, liberty and property,” according to an Instagram post.
In September, San Miguel County Court Judge Sean Murphy ruled Gottorff was in contempt of court again for continuing to target Colorado Boy. In a verbal ruling, he said he was fining Gottorff and his attorney, Dan Shaffer of Grand Junction, $15,000 which they were jointly responsible for paying. Shaffer was appointed by the courts to defend Gottorff in these civil cases.
Murphy said he would issue a written ruling but has not done so seven months later, despite another request from Sagal. This leaves Colorado Boy in limbo, unable to collect the fine from his assets. Gottorff has claimed indigency in the past and received public assistance from the courts, claiming he doesn’t have enough income to pay for his own representation.
Gottorff also faces litigation in Gunnison County, where he is accused of dumping raw sewage on his property at Lake Irwin instead of installing an approved septic system.
In that case, the county filed a complaint against Gottorff in October for discharging waste from his toilet and sinks from a pipe into his yard, posing a health risk to other residents and the Crested Butte watershed.
The argument over the sewer situation goes back to 2017, when a county health official notified Gottorff he needed to comply with septic rules, according to court records. A long correspondence with health department officials included a response from Gottorff telling the department to “cease and desist.”
Last July, Gottorff responded to the health official again by saying, “Quite frankly the continuous baseless notices that I receive from your office year after year have soured your credibility and reputation. I now consider (your) notices to be a form of harassment.”
The conversation escalated and Gottorff allegedly threatened that he had “a noose” for the county health official if she came up to his property. The health official obtained a protection order, according to court records. Gunnison County’s case is pending.
Links to previous articles the Ouray County Plaindealer has published involving David Gottorff: