Jefferson County District Court No. 14CR3169 Honorable Todd
L. Vriesman, Judge.
J. Weiser, Attorney General, Kevin E. McReynolds, Assistant
Attorney General, Denver, Colorado, for Plaintiff-Appellee
A. Ring, Colorado State Public Defender, Kamela Maktabi,
Deputy State Public Defender, Denver, Colorado, for
1 Defendant, Ashley Rae Ruth Knox, appeals the judgment of
conviction entered on a jury verdict finding her guilty of
criminal extortion and three counts of attempt to influence a
public servant.Knox raises two contentions on appeal:
first, the district court erred in concluding that police
officers are public servants under section 18-8-306, C.R.S.
2019; and second, her threat of litigation absent settlement
of a potential personal injury claim did not constitute
criminal extortion under section 18-3-207(1)(a), (b)(I),
C.R.S. 2019. Because we disagree with her first contention,
we affirm her convictions for attempt to influence a public
servant. However, because we agree with her second
contention, we vacate her conviction for criminal extortion.
2 On November 26, 2014, Amber Diedrichs-Giffin was turning
left in her car when she heard a "bang" as Knox
forcefully placed her hands on the hood of the car. When
Diedrichs-Giffin asked if Knox was okay, Knox responded that
her "leg kind of hurts." Diedrichs-Giffin provided
her insurance and contact information; however, Knox declined
to contact law enforcement officials and asked for
"weed" or money, stating, "We could settle
this now." Knox walked away - seemingly uninjured -
after Diedrichs-Giffin directed Knox to contact
Diedrichs-Giffin's insurance company.
3 Shortly afterward, Diedrichs-Giffin called 911 to report
the accident, expressing her uncertainty about who was at
fault. The dispatcher told her that, without an injury, she
did not need to file a report; but if Knox contacted law
enforcement officials later, they could refer to the
recording of Diedrichs-Giffin's call.
4 Later the same day, Knox sent Diedrichs-Giffin a series of
text messages asking to settle matters outside of court. The
particular text message underlying the eventual criminal
extortion charge and conviction stated:
Hey amber, this is Ashley the young lady, u hit..i have a
little amount of time if i want to pursue, court
action…im already on pain management and am going
through hard times like everyone..im sure..id rather u help
me out we agree to a one time feesable amount. We can even
sign something if u want..to keep out of a long court
proceeding going back to court over several months, insurance
goin up, and my medical bills, since im in and out of
hospital already[.] Let me know, if that works for you, or u
would rather draw it out in court. Thanks[.]
did not respond to the message and testified that she
perceived it as an attempt to "make a one-time deal with
me so that way we didn't have to pursue it in
5 Six days later, Knox walked to an area near where the
incident occurred and called 911, reporting that she had just
been injured in a hit-and-run accident. Among other things,
she claimed that the driver had refused to wait for police
and she could not walk home because her leg and hip hurt.
6 Arvada police officers Dustin LeDoux and Donald Smith
responded to Knox's report. Knox described
Diedrichs-Giffin and her vehicle to Officer Smith and
provided him with her license plate number. During the
subsequent ambulance ride to the hospital, she provided a
more detailed account to Officer LeDoux.
7 Officer LeDoux tracked down Diedrichs-Giffin and learned
that the incident had, in fact, taken place six days earlier.
He also procured a copy of the text Knox had sent to
Diedrichs-Giffin the day of the incident. Officer LeDoux
interviewed Knox at the hospital after hearing
Diedrichs-Giffin's account. She initially maintained her
version of events, but when confronted with the text message,
she admitted that the incident had occurred six days earlier.
She explained that she had lied about the timing because she
feared not receiving medical treatment otherwise.
8 The district attorney charged Knox with criminal extortion,
false reporting, and three counts of attempt to influence a
public servant. The jury rejected her arguments that she was
guilty only of false reporting and that the prosecution had
failed to prove that she staged the accident or faked her
injuries. She was convicted of all counts, and this appeal
Sufficiency of the Evidence
9 Knox contends that the prosecution failed to prove beyond a
reasonable doubt that she committed three offenses of attempt
to influence a public servant; thus, she argues that we must
vacate her convictions because the evidence was insufficient
to establish her guilt. Before determining whether there was
sufficient evidence to convict Knox of attempting to
influence a public servant, we must address two preliminary
questions - (1) whether police officers are public servants
and (2) whether Knox could be convicted of three offenses or
only one offense.
Attempt to Influence Public Servants
10 Knox argues that the district court erred in concluding
that police officers are public servants for purposes of
attempting to influence a public servant under section
18-8-306. We disagree.
Standard of Review
11 Sufficiency of the evidence claims may be raised for the
first time on appeal and are not subject to plain error
review. McCoy v. People, 2019 COA 44, ¶ 19, 442
P.3d 379, 385.
12 We review questions of statutory interpretation de novo.
People v. Sena, 2016 COA 161, ¶ 10, 395 P.3d
13 When interpreting a statute, we look first to the language
of the statute, attributing plain and ordinary meanings to
all words and phrases. McCoy, ¶ 37, 442 P.3d at
389. We read the statute in context with its broader
statutory scheme, "giving consistent, harmonious, and
sensible effect to all of its parts, and we must avoid
constructions that would render any words or phrases
superfluous or lead to illogical or absurd results."
Id. at ¶ 38, 442 P.3d at 389. If the statutory
language is clear and unambiguous, we apply the provision as
written. Id. If, on the other hand, we conclude that
the statute is reasonably susceptible of multiple
interpretations, we turn to other interpretive methods to
ascertain the legislature's intent and resolve the
ambiguity. Id. In so doing, we may refer to canons
of statutory construction, legislative history, and the
statute's purpose. Id.
Applicable Law and Analysis
14 In Sena, a division of our court concluded that,
by its plain language, "police officers are public
servants as contemplated in section 18-8-306."
Sena, ¶ 15, 395 P.3d at 1151. Knox contends
Sena was wrongly decided. We agree with the holding
in Sena. However, although we agree with the
Sena division's conclusion that a police officer
is a public servant, we reach that conclusion after
determining that the statute is ambiguous, requiring
15 On the one hand, the reading of the statute and the
accompanying statutory scheme relied on by Knox suggests that
the legislature intended to distinguish police officers from
public servants by enacting separate statutes to address
conduct against them in certain circumstances. On the other
hand, the Sena division concluded, based on the
plain language of the statute, that police officers are
included in the broad definition of public servants. Because
section 18-8-306 is amenable to two reasonable
interpretations, we conclude it is ambiguous.
16 The statute governing the crime of attempt to influence a
public servant provides:
Any person who attempts to influence any public servant by
means of deceit or by threat of violence or economic reprisal
against any person or property, with the intent thereby to
alter or affect the public servant's decision, vote,
opinion, or action concerning any matter which is to be
considered or performed ...