Thursday, October 17, 2002
Steamboat Springs As Assistant District Attorney Kerry St. James questioned one of his witnesses, he started to notice her story didn't make complete sense.
As he continued the questioning, a tinge of doubt settled into the back of his mind.
Was it possible Victor Perez was innocent?
"When the witness (not the victim) started to contradict herself, it caused me to have concerns," St. James said.
On Thursday, during a recess on the second day of Perez's jury trial, St. James made a decision that surprised everyone. He dismissed the charges.
"I have never seen anything like this in the 16 years that I have worked in this district," said Perez's court-appointed attorney, Kristopher L. Hammond.
"It was a hard decision," St. James said. "I had a sufficient enough concern about the ultimate facts of this case, such that I had to exercise my discretion."
Perez, 52, was arrested Jan. 9 of this year for allegedly soliciting sex from a teen-age girl and providing alcohol to minors.
He has been in jail ever since awaiting a trial, unable to raise the $20,000 Judge James Garrecht set for bail.
An Oak Creek girl told local police at the time of Perez's arrest that he had touched her inappropriately and offered her money for sex. The girl also alleged Perez provided alcohol and marijuana to area youths.
Perez was charged with soliciting sex from a child, contributing to the delinquency of a minor and third-degree sexual assault.
If Perez were convicted of all charges, he would have spent up to 20 years in jail.
Perez said Thursday morning the charges were brought against him after he got into an argument with the alleged victim's father over beer.
"I don't know if he was guilty or not," St. James said. "If I have a doubt, my job is not to seek convictions, but to seek justice."
As for the nine months that Perez spent in Routt County Jail, he will not be compensated.
"He can't get that time back," Hammond said.
"It's the nature of our justice system that someone can get convicted and punished for something they didn't do," he said. "There was a chance that we could avoid that in this case."