Hunter Thompson Is Smiling Today: Lisl Auman is Free

Wherever Hunter Thompson may be today, he is smiling. Lisl Auman, whose cause Hunter championed, was released from a halfway house this week, having served six months as required by a plea bargain after her conviction for felony murder was thrown out by the Colorado Supreme Court.

Here's how Hunter viewed the task:

It is no small trick to get a "Convicted cop-killer" out of prison -- but it will be a little easier in this case, because Lisl no more killed a cop than I did. She was handcuffed in the backseat of a Denver Police car when the cop was murdered in cold blood by a vicious skinhead who then shot himself in the head & left the D.A. with nobody to punish for the murder -- except Lisl.

You can read more of Hunter on the case in Vanity Fair (free link.)

I have come to hate this case more than any story I've ever worked on, at least since the trial of Richard Nixon and the Manson-family murders. This one is no longer about points of law or precedent, but entirely about the difference between Right and Wrong in America. The time has come to stand up and be counted, to declare which side you are on today and forever, especially all those who believe in heaven and hell. They too will be judged and punished for their crimes, and the Lisl Auman case is one of them.

As Hunter said, Lisl was originally sentenced to life in prison without parole for the murder of Denver police officer Bruce Vanderjagt. Officer Vanderjagt was killed by skinhead Matthaus Jahenig following a police chase and traffic stop. Lisl was a passenger in Jahenig's car. Earlier that day, he had helped her break into her ex-roomate's apartment to retrieve her belongings. Lisl was in the back of the patrol car when Jahenig unexpectedly shot the officer. He then killed himself.

Lisl served 8 years of her life sentence in the Colorado State Penitentiary before the conviction was overturned by the Colorado Supreme Court for improper jury instructions on the burglary charge, which required the felony murder conviction also to be overturned. She faced a retrial and took a plea bargain for a 20 year community corrections sentence. Since she had done 8 years, she was eligible to be transferred from prison to a halfway house, and eligible for parole six months later. That six months was up this week.

While Lisl may now live on her own in the Denver metro area, she is not free of state control. Under the terms of her parole , she faces 9 more years of close supervision.

It's time for Lisl to return to society. The money we would have spent on her continued incarceration can be used much more wisely elsewhere.

Good luck Lisl. Parole is no walk in the park, but it sure beats life in prison. And a toast to Hunter, wherever his spirit is resting today.

You can read more at Lisl's website.

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    Re: Hunter Thompson Is Smiling Today: Lisl Auman i (none / 0) (#1)
    by Aaron on Tue Apr 25, 2006 at 01:15:47 PM EST
    I'm glad she's out. She probably should've been there in the first place. Chalk one up for the "good doctor", a champion for freedom, truth, and the American way, perhaps the first and last of the true maverick journalists. The inventor of gonzo journalism. "He who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man" (Dr. Johnson). I always keep this in mind when I comment on someone's blog. "We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert, when the drugs began to take hold." I don't think anyone ever capture the reality and the farce of drugs and the drug culture of the 60s and 70s so perfectly and so hysterically as Hunter did in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. But first and foremost Hunter was a serious journalist who wrote more truth in his exaggerations than anyone could ever convey with straight journalism. It's nice to see him have something of a win even after he's gone. I spark a bowl to your memory Duke, pull the hammer back on the 454 Casull and take dead aim at the brainpan of hypocrisies and lies, with the fervent intent of splatter their brains all over the windshield. HST LIVES

    A small victory for the cause of justice. I wonder how many other Lisls are still incarcerated because the police or DA needed someone to blame?

    I am happy for Lisl. This case reminds me of the Derek Bentley case in Britain in the early 1950's. Derek was a mentally retarded 19 year old who, along with a 16 year old friend, tried to break into a warehouse in London. The police came, Derek gave up, and while in custody, the juvenile shot and killed one of the cops. Long story short: The juvenile served 10 years in prison, was released and has been a law-abiding man to this day. Derek was hanged, and it took 50 years for his conviction to be overturned, and a posthumous pardon given. Lisl is lucky that she wasn't sentenced to death!

    And Elvis Costello wrote a song about the Derek Bentley case.

    Re: Hunter Thompson Is Smiling Today: Lisl Auman i (none / 0) (#5)
    by jondee on Tue Apr 25, 2006 at 05:53:24 PM EST
    One of the last times we discussed this case a certain "social lberal" said in effect a laws a law, too bad for her. Maybe He'd like to chime in again with his inimitable perspective?

    Re: Hunter Thompson Is Smiling Today: Lisl Auman i (none / 0) (#6)
    by Edger on Tue Apr 25, 2006 at 06:57:30 PM EST
    Good for Lisl. Because of Hunter Thompson and others who, like him, honestly and truly walk their talk and value people above abstract moralising, she has a second chance to build her life. I wish her well, and hope she will do her best to pass on the favor and consideration in future. Even better for others such as Tyrone Brown, who might, and do, find themselves dehumanized victims of the kind of lying sociopathic a**holes who seem to find some perverse pleasure in shredding human beings physically or otherwise, Hunter set an example for us all... Hunter Thompson is a rare example of pursuit of unvarnished truth without regard for the fact that it might and often does offend the most offensive poeple among us. If Hunter or his tactics or his manner or his choices of words offended you, it was for the stark and simple reaason that you deserved to be offended, and it said more about you than about him if he decided you were worthless... the reverse was also true. He could spot any version of anything even remotely resembling a seig heil no matter how politely or decorously couched. And if with his finely tuned radar for BS he singled you out as a good little programmed nazi you'd soon find yourself faced with "him ranting, chain-smoking, sweating and stinking, ripping off his lapel mike so he could cross the room cussing up a storm and kick you in the shins" as Charles Reinken described in his Seattle Times Op-Ed in February '05. He was a true and honorable man, and Lisl was not simply lucky, she was blessed that Hunter existed.

    Re: Hunter Thompson Is Smiling Today: Lisl Auman i (none / 0) (#7)
    by Edger on Tue Apr 25, 2006 at 07:08:13 PM EST
    Hunter Thompson was the universes way of setting Lisl, and himself, free.

    Re: Hunter Thompson Is Smiling Today: Lisl Auman i (none / 0) (#8)
    by Kevin Hayden on Wed Apr 26, 2006 at 05:08:12 AM EST
    Sounds a bit like the case of Bernice Bowen. Her boyfriend killed her 4 year old son, was arrested, escaped his handcuffs, killed two detectives and a state trooper, and eventually, himself. Denied of vengeance against the killer, Carr, they went after his abused girlfriend on tenuous evidence that garnered her 21-1/2 years. An appeals court reversed that In a second trial, she was again convicted because she concealed his identity when he was taken into custody and again after he killed the two detectives during his escape. Abused and grief-stricken at the loss of her child in a shooting she considered accidental by Carr, she initially gave a false name for him. Even had she provided the name, since they handcuffed him, the escape and killings likely would have occurred anyway. But when she again lied after the first two murders, they say she endangered many lives. In reality, even if they knew his name then, the third killing, his standoff and suicide still would have occurred. She was refused on her second appeal. Though her culpability was more clear than Lisl's, considering her classic signs of being abused and the loss of her son, the lengthy sentence seems inappropriate to me still. She was no copkiller. She was still in 'love' with her abuser, but lied out of fear of him, per her testimony. And remember, she spoke to him by phone several times during his final standoff, cooperating with police in trying to get him to surrender. She's still serving a 21-1/2 year sentence.