A local judge on Wednesday made permanent a restraining order against a local man who posted a message on the Aspen Institute’s Facebook page that alluded to “pitchforks and guns at your doors” and the National Rifle Association.
Now, Lee Mulcahy is banned from four major local institutions: the SkiCo and its property, including ski areas; the Aspen Institute; the Aspen Music Festival and School; and the Aspen Art Museum.
Wednesday was the third county court appearance in two weeks for Mulcahy, who has waged a long and public fight against the SkiCo, the art museum, and various officials with the organizations.
Staff with the institute, music festival, Aspen Country Day School and the SkiCo attended the restraining order hearing held in a Pitkin County courtroom.
Mulcahy, representing himself, apologized for the Facebook post he made Nov. 28. In it, he wrote: “Hey elites, you’ve divided us long enough. Be fair to us little people OR you’re gonna have pitchforks and guns at your doors. Yea, some of us at white trash at occupy aspen believe in the NRA too. #Remember the Alamo. Raise your glass to the Old Aspen. – lee mulcahy phd.”
Pitkin County Judge Erin Fernandez-Ely said after the three-hour proceeding that Mulcahy’s apologies were “disingenuous.”
That he posted it on Nov. 28, the day Fernandez-Ely dismissed SkiCo’s bid for a permanent restraining order against Mulcahy, is “shocking,” the judge said.
“You knew your intentions were at issue, and you proceeded in posting something that was offensive,” Fernandez-Ely said, adding that his Facebook post represents “an escalation of harassment.”
SkiCo had sought the order after Mulcahy, a former ski instructor with the company, parked a trailer that held signs with messages to officials outside company offices. “Dear CEOs Be Fair Remember the Alamo,” one read.
Mulcahy has been at odds with his former employer since it fired him in 2011 after he distributed fliers in the SkiCo-owned Little Nell hotel and in gondola plaza criticizing the ski school’s pay policies. SkiCo officials say he was fired for work-performance issues unrelated to the fliers.
Attorneys Darrell Waas and Patricia Campbell of Denver represented the Aspen Institute, the music festival and school, and Aspen Country Day, the private school that is temporarily leasing a portion of the West End campus from those organizations while its Castle Creek site is remodeled.
Waas called music festival CEO and president Alan Fletcher to testify. Fletcher said that with the presence of Aspen Country Day’s 200 students on the grounds, “the ‘guns at your door’ statement was a game changer for us.”
Under questioning from Mulcahy, who represented himself, Fletcher said he felt threatened by the defendant.
“In this climate, people who use the language of guns, particularly around a school situation ... I think it’s a provocation that crosses beyond simile or metaphor,” Fletcher said. “A person with my particular responsibility has to take that very seriously.”
Fletcher said he was familiar with Mulcahy from the defendant’s alleged actions at a music festival fundraiser last summer.
“It appeared to me and my staff that you were provoking our guests and behaving offensively toward staff,” Fletcher said.
Asked in what way by Mulcahy, Fletcher cited one staff member who said Mulcahy had pinched his butt and another who said he was repeatedly hit on by Mulcahy.
Before the event, Mulcahy had requested to be sat next to either Jim and Paula Crown, owners of the SkiCo, or Heidi Zuckerman Jacobson, director and chief curator of the Aspen Art Museum, Fletcher said.
“I called Mr. Mulcahy and said, A., those people are not going to be present, and B., this is an important occasion, please don’t disrupt it,” Fletcher said. “He said, ‘Don’t worry, I just want to break bread with these important people.’”
Fletcher added that there was no credible reason to deny Mulcahy, who he said proceeded to act provocatively and make guests uncomfortable.
Mulcahy’s lawsuit against the Crowns related to his banning by the SkiCo is ongoing, while his suit against Zuckerman Jacobson was dismissed in July. Earlier this year, he sued Zuckerman Jacobson, alleging that his ban from the nonprofit organization’s property violated his First Amendment rights. He was barred from the museum’s property on Hyman Avenue after he posted uncomplimentary signs about the organization there.
On Wednesday, Waas also called officials from Aspen Country Day and the Aspen Institute who reiterated that they felt Mulcahy’s Facebook post was a credible threat. Mulcahy called nine witnesses who said the opposite, including Aspen Historical Society director Georgia Hanson, who agreed with him that his Facebook post was “pretty stupid.” Another said Mulcahy used a poor choice of words.
Fernandez-Ely said she was making the restraining order permanent because, unlike in the SkiCo case, Mulcahy mentioned guns and threatened to show up at the institute’s doors.
“It seems you are the bully in this case,” Fernandez-Ely said. “I don’t believe that you will stop without this restraining order.”
Mulcahy then began flipping through books he brought with him, including “Living in the End Times,” which predicts the end of capitalism.
The restraining order, which can only be rescinded by a judge’s order, will include an exception allowing Mulcahy to attend a church near the Aspen Institute campus. Otherwise, he must stay 100 yards away from the grounds. Fernandez-Ely instructed Waas and Campbell to come up with a specific list of employees of the organizations to be included in Mulcahy’s restraining order.
“I’m very disappointed,” Mulcahy said.
“I’m disappointed, too,” Fernandez-Ely said. “I think you’re a martyr, I’m sorry. But by definition, martyrs don’t care what happens to themselves.”