By Brian Maass
DENVER (CBS4)– A year after Taylor Brookshire was arrested, jailed for four days without bond, and charged with felony forgery, Denver prosecutors have dismissed all charges against the Littleton nursing student saying cellphone technology indicates they likely arrested and prosecuted the wrong person.
“I’m so happy to have my life back,” Brookshire said last Friday, moments after charges were dropped in a Denver courtroom. “There’s still people who are innocent and did not commit crimes and I was one of them.”
A previous CBS4 Investigation in May raised questions about her case and if authorities had arrested the wrong person. Brookshire, 23, was arrested in November 2014 and charged with two felony forgery counts. She spent four nights in jail, a place she had never been before, and then faced 16 court appearances and $8,000 in attorney’s fees over the next year before charges were finally dropped.
“My daughter was innocent,” said Brookshire’s mother, Mary Kozlowski. “It’s an abuse of power. It’s reckless, malicious prosecution in my eyes.”
The case stemmed from an incident at a U.S. Bank branch in Denver in September 2014. A woman entered the bank at 1100 South Broadway and tried to cash a $695 check made out to Taylor Brookshire. The woman used a fake Ohio driver’s license with Brookshire’s name and picture on it. Brookshire used the fake ID years earlier when she was underage so she could drink. But she said she gave the license to a friend more than a year ago and lost track of it.
U.S. Bank employees suspected the check was bogus and the suspect fled the bank before the transaction was completed. She left behind the license and Denver police quickly tracked down and contacted Brookshire and her mother, Mary Kozlowski.
When a DPD Detective contacted Kozlowski, she and her daughter declined to make any statements saying it was their constitutional right. Denver police then obtained a probable cause warrant for Brookshire’s arrest for two counts of felony forgery.
They also showed bank employees a photo lineup containing a picture of Taylor Brookshire. The teller who helped the suspect “was unable to make an identification” according to a police report. However two other bank employees who came into contact with the suspect picked Brookshire’s photo out of the lineup as the woman who was in the bank September 29 attempting to pass the bad check.
But with Brookshire steadfastly maintaining she was not in the bank and did not try to pass the forged check, questions soon arose. Brookshire is listed as 4-foot-10 and is by her own admission, squat and muscular. The woman captured in bank surveillance photos appears to be at least three to five inches taller than Brookshire. The suspect also appears to be slender and lithe compared to Brookshire’s compact build. In one photo, the suspect appears to be several inches taller than a bank employee who listed her height at 5-foot-1.
The suspect was also seen in bank photos signing the check with her right hand. Brookshire is left handed.
She and her family paid for a polygraph test administered by a 30-year veteran of the FBI, Kenneth Vardell. In a report shared with CBS4, Vardell wrote in early 2015 that Brookshire was truthful when she denied involvement in the bank fraud. Vardell went further, writing, “The bank camera photos do not remotely resemble the Taylor Breann Brookshire that I met with and tested… even with disguise, she could not be the person depicted in those bank camera frames.”
But police and prosecutors pressed on. It was only after a year and some 16 court dates that prosecutors revealed they obtained cellphone tower technology that showed that Brookshire’s phone was not near the bank branch on the day in question. That led prosecutors to dismiss the case.
Lynn Kimbrough, a spokesperson for the Denver District Attorney, said “We were able to confirm that Ms. Brookshire’s cellphone was not anywhere near the bank at the time the forgery occurred. Additional information is she did not commit the forgery. That’s probably somebody else who was in the bank that day. It was someone who used her fake ID.”
Kimbrough was asked if police and prosecutors could have obtained the cellphone information much earlier in the case.
”Theoretically,” responded Kimbrough but she said taking that kind of investigative step, in this kind of case, is unusual.
However she said when a second prosecutor took over the case, he thought obtaining the cellphone records was a prudent step in determining guilt or innocence.
“I don’t know if she is owed an apology but I would apologize for what she’s had to go through. I’m sorry she had to spend these last twelve months facing these charges,” said Kimbrough.
Richard Huttner, Brookshire’s attorney, told CBS4,”She knew she wasn’t guilty and stood up for her rights. All along she said ‘It’s not me’ and took them to task. It is disappointing. The justice system is not perfect.”
Prosecutors may be done but Mary Kozlowski is not. She told CBS4 she has filed an internal affairs complaint with the Denver Police Department against the detectives who handled the case. Kozlowski also intends to file a complaint against the initial Denver prosecutor who prosecuted the case who she contends “maliciously and recklessly went after my daughter and didn’t even bother to review the video evidence, or other evidence in the case.”