DENVER — A former Colorado sheriff once regarded as a hero has been sentenced to 15 months in prison for repeatedly violating his probation in a meth-for-sex case.
Patrick Sullivan was sentenced Thursday, two years after pleading guilty to plying young men with methamphetamine in exchange for sexual favors.
The 71-year-old Sullivan was once named the nation’s top sheriff and won praise for his leadership of the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Department in the Denver suburbs.
He was arrested in December 2011 after a 911 caller reported Sullivan was trying to get three recovering addicts back on drugs. He later pleaded guilty to possession of methamphetamine and solicitation of a prostitute.
Some hoped that probation would let him redeem his tarnished image, but he repeatedly tested positive for drugs and alcohol.
When a revered former Colorado sheriff pleaded guilty to plying young men with methamphetamine in exchange for sexual favors two years ago, his colleagues were stunned.
But when a judge spared him prison time, ordering probation instead, some held hope that Patrick Sullivan, once named the nation’s top sheriff, would be able to redeem his tarnished image.
Instead, the former Arapahoe County sheriff again faces prison when he is sentenced Thursday for violating his probation for at least the third time, repeatedly testing positive for drugs and alcohol since his felony conviction.
“I’m not shocked anymore,” said former Boulder County Sheriff George Epp. “What it tells me is a switch flipped somehow and it hasn’t flipped back.”
The hearing is expected to draw supporters, but also some still angered by a sentence they saw as too light.
Before his arrest in December 2011, Sullivan, 71, was known as an anti-drug crusader, a lawman with a record so distinguished the county named its jail after him. The National Sheriffs’ Association tapped him as its “top sheriff” in 2001, and he continued to command respect even after he resigned the following year to oversee security for a school district.
But a darker picture of Sullivan emerged. A 911 caller asked police to remove from his home an “old man” who was trying to get three recovering addicts back on drugs. Authorities later learned the old man was Sullivan, and he was dealing meth to men in exchange for sex. Sullivan would develop relationships with vulnerable young men, help them find jobs and get out of jail, and then provide them the drug.
“I was just thunderstruck,” Epp said. “It was a complete 180-degree turn from the person I knew.”