COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — A former Colorado sheriff on trial for extortion used his authority like a club, intimidating subordinates as well as contractors with his department, prosecutors argued Thursday.

Former El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa is charged with threatening to terminate a $5.3 million contract with the county jail’s health provider if it did not fire an employee who refused to support a favorite of Maketa’s to succeed him as sheriff.

Maketa is also charged with witness intimidation and official misconduct for allegedly trying to undermine the credibility of three deputies.

In opening statements, special prosecutor Chris Wilcox said Maketa retaliated against employees he believed crossed him and once coerced a domestic violence victim to drop charges against a sheriff’s deputy.

Maketa also threatened to terminate the health provider contract to advance the cause of then-Undersheriff Paula Presley to succeed him as sheriff, Wilcox said.

Maketa’s attorney, Pamela Mackey, countered that Maketa never demanded that anyone be fired and that he had little involvement with the domestic violence case.

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