What happens when your case spills out of the court and into TikTok? That’s a question some Colorado lawyers are dealing with after a property dispute went viral on the social media app.
Maybe if you’re on TikTok you came across a video of a woman, arms crossed with a stern expression, pasted over a video of children and adults in swimsuits, carrying inflatable tubes on the sandy beach of a creek. Text at the bottom reads “POV: they tell you it’s not a big deal and you shouldn’t have bought property next to park if you don’t want the Public in your backyard.” That’s how Law Week first came across the Jefferson County court case that’s been seen 3.7 million times since it was posted Aug. 3.
As a rule of thumb, lawyers tend to advise clients not to post about ongoing cases on social media just in case information disclosed in a post ends up as evidence against them. But in this case, the social media fame might help the defendants who are raising money for legal fees and have encouraged followers to contact local government officials about the case.
Taralyn Romero began posting to her TikTok account (@wickedwitch_ofthe_west) on Aug. 2 and since then she’s gained 33,900 followers, 559,400 likes and over five million views sharing her side of what she calls “a modern day David & Goliath tale.”
That David and Goliath tale springs from a property dispute involving Romero and her fiancé, Michael Eymer, the founder of Colorado Cannabis Tours, against residents of Jefferson County who say the couple has stopped them from accessing parts of Kittredge Community Park bordering Bear Creek.
Eymer and Romero’s home sits on a small bluff overlooking Bear Creek and on the opposite shore, the public has been using the beach as a park. In 1986, part of the property that now belongs to the couple was sold to Jefferson County, along with other nearby plots of land, to create Kittredge Community Park. The sale of the land was divided by the location of the creek, with Jefferson County buying the plot north of the center of Bear Creek and the property owners keeping the southern portion. Since then, locals have accessed Bear Creek and used the water’s northern shore as a part of the park. But the current land owners say the creek has moved since 1986 and its current location is their private property.
Romero said she didn’t know about the public use of the park when she and Eymer bought their home in March 2021. In an Aug. 4 TikTok, Romero explained they placed an offer the same day they saw their home and the sellers didn’t disclose the public had been using the land across the river from them for decades.
“I saw the house for maybe 30 minutes and then we both left. We rushed to get our paperwork together so I could make an offer,” said Romero in the video. “The good news: I got the home. The bad news: the prior owners did not tell me that my backyard with a creek running through it, as was advertised, was being used as an extension of a public park and had been for decades.”
It was winter when they bought the house and when the summer rolled around last year, residents began using the beach across the creek and conflicts between the couple and the public kicked off a property rights dispute.
Representing the Board of County Commissioners for Jefferson County, the Jefferson County Attorney’s Office on July 12 asked the state court to grant declaratory and injunctive relief to prevent Romero and Eymer from blocking access to the land and rule the disputed property belongs to Jefferson County. The lawsuit came after two months of talks with the couple, a Jefferson County Open Space spokesperson told a local news outlet in July.
According to the county’s complaint, the couple blocked off portions of the disputed land, putting up markers, ropes and private property signs. The couple has since agreed not to block access. The county also alleges both Eymer and Romero “have acted with aggression and intimidation towards park visitors and children playing in the creek and digging in the sand through use of drones, security cameras, photographing license plates and general threats of trespass tickets.”
The complaint also alleges the couple circulated a survey about the park online with deceptive language. According to the county, the survey could’ve led readers to believe it was from Jefferson County Open Space since it included a field to collect contact information by the question “[m]ay Jefferson County contact you.” The complaint says the survey’s since been revised after Jefferson County officials spoke with the couple’s attorney.
Jefferson County argues that while the creek may have changed location since 1986, the land deed divided property relative to Bear Creek’s location rather than a set point. The county added the creek’s location has changed considerably since 1986, but only slightly since March 2021 when the couple bought the property.
Jefferson County argues that if Romero and Eymer do own the disputed land based on the 1986 agreement, the county has since acquired the land through adverse possession. According to the lawsuit, Jefferson County has continually used the land north of the creek since 1986, made improvements to the land, maintained the property and the public has used it as part of the park ever since. The county also made a prescriptive easement argument, that it’s acquired implied easement over the land for the public to have recreational and social use since the park was formed.
Romero and Eymer’s response isn’t due until Sept. 9 and attorneys representing the couple did not respond to Law Week’s request for an interview, but Romero has laid out the couple’s side of the story on her TikTok account.
In her videos, Romero says she’s experienced harassment online and in-person and claims Jefferson County’s lawsuit came after pressure from a vocal minority of the community. Most comments on Romero’s account are supportive of the couple in the dispute.
While it’s unclear if Romero’s TikTok account will have any impact on the court case, or what that impact could look like, she’s asked her followers for support.
On Aug. 25, Romero created a GoFundMe page to raise money for the couple’s legal fees with a goal of raising $50,000. Romero said any unused funds will be donated to “others who are in need of financial assistance to fight big government.” She has also encouraged TikTok followers who want to support her to email the Jefferson County Commissioners and CC her.
The Jefferson County Attorney’s Office, which is representing the county commissioners, also didn’t respond to a request for comment. Eymer and Romero are represented by Brian Ray of Hatch Ray Olsen Conant LLC and Timmins LLC attorneys Edward Timmins and Amy Hunt.