Judge hears testimony against former teacher charged with sexually assaulting boy in Routt County

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John Holland Brothers Jr.

— After a three-hour hearing Friday, Routt County Judge James Garrecht ruled that the case against the former teacher accused of sexually assaulting a boy should proceed to district court, where felony cases are heard.

John Holland Brothers Jr. has been in custody since he was arrested in Louisiana by the Routt County Sheriff's Office in April 2012. Brothers has been charged with 16 felonies and a sentence enhancer that would extend his sentence if he is found guilty.

Proceedings were delayed numerous times to deal with legal issues, and the preliminary hearing finally was held Friday.

After the hearing, Routt County Public Defender Sheryl Uhlmann asked that the case be expedited. Brothers next will have an arraignment hearing at 1 p.m. Monday before Judge Shelley Hill.

The purpose of Friday's hearing was to determine whether there was probable cause for the case to move forward.

The only person called to testify by prosecutors was T.J. Sisto, the primary Routt County Sheriff's Office detective who worked on the case.

Sisto testified that the boy and his father came to report the incident in March 2012.

"It was obvious that it was a very difficult subject for him to discuss," Sisto said. "His demeanor was tense and uncomfortable. He seemed nervous."

Sisto said that over about a six-week period, Brothers forced himself on the boy and sexually assaulted him eight times in a bedroom, according to an interview with the boy. The boy tried to fight back, Sisto said.

While living here, Brothers was a pastor at First Baptist Church in Yampa and was a teacher at Heritage Christian School west of Steamboat Springs between 2006 and 2008. He was hired to teach junior high and high school science, high school math and Bible class.

Sisto said that when he interviewed Brothers, Brothers denied the allegations numerous times.

"At some points, he was calm," Sisto said. "At others, he was disoriented and confused. Nervous."

During the testimony, Sisto confirmed the boy had called Brothers in 2011 to tell Brothers that he forgave him. Brothers told Sisto he did not do anything wrong.

Prosecutors questioned Sisto for about 45 minutes. Public defender Kiyomi Bolick then asked Sisto questions for about an hour.

Brothers' attorneys did not call anyone else to testify. They wanted the boy and the boy's father to testify, but the judge did not allow it. Prosecutors have fought to keep them off the stand during the preliminary hearing for fear it would further victimize the boy and his family.

Brothers has been charged with eight counts of sexual assault on a child with a pattern of abuse and eight counts of sexual assault on a child by a person in a position of trust.

In addition to the Routt County case, Brothers has a pending case in Kentucky, where he has been charged with two counts of first-degree sexual abuse related to allegations that he sexually assaulted two youths at a church where he worked as a youth minister after leaving Colorado.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247 or email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com

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Comments

bill schurman 11 months, 4 weeks ago

So much for the written right to call witnesses at a preliminary hearing. Way to go Judge.

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rhys jones 11 months, 4 weeks ago

I wondered about that myself. Doesn't that automatically make it appealable?

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bill schurman 11 months, 4 weeks ago

No. The judge in his discretion can deny the defendant the right to call witnesses. Trouble is the judge has a habit of exercising his discretion in favor of the prosecution, if you know what I mean.

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rhys jones 11 months, 4 weeks ago

Seriously, Bill -- and not that I expect a response -- but does this not mean this is a mistrial already? They could take him to trial, convict him, and his appeal is ready -- he has already been denied his rights.

Sort of like when they switched charges on us, during the trial, when things weren't looking good for the prosecution -- but no appeal was necessary, you whooped 'em anyway, our neighbors agreed, some kids need a spanking.

I just hate to see THIS GUY get a free ticket...

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rhys jones 11 months, 4 weeks ago

And Jerry -- (this being the most convenient forum to poach; they don't include anything outside this drainage, in the online version) If I owned the Rockies, I'd tade Tulo tomorrow for a name pitcher and some draft choices, then dump the good ol' boys (Weiss and Bichette) as it's more about attitude, than mechanics... you've got to WANT to hit the ball, not feel like you have to, just in case he's throwing strikes... you shouldn't approach the plate HOPING you walk. Some guys have it going on, Cargo, Cuddy, Nolan, DJ, Dex, Todd,...

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rhys jones 11 months, 4 weeks ago

I apologize for diverting the attention from the worm this forum is about. Let's hope he doesn't walk, after the retrial.

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Scott Wedel 11 months, 4 weeks ago

I don't see the violation of preliminary hearing rules. The preliminary hearing is to for the court to determine whether there is enough evidence to proceed to trial. It is not a trial and there is no jury.

The website I found on Colorado legal procedures says it is important for a defendant to have a lawyer at the preliminary hearing. "Your lawyer will cross examine the witnesses that are testifying against you, and may uncover critical inconsistencies that can help you down the road at trial. In addition, your lawyer will help you make important decisions - decisions that will greatly effect your case later on."

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rhys jones 11 months, 4 weeks ago

This is what you get when a layman tries to play lawyer. That opinion, and a buck, will get you a cup of coffee at McDonald's, and little more. This guy is so far out in left field he's playing his own game. The witnesses who could possibly have exonerated Brothers upon cross-examination were never allowed to testify. Seems like a breach of rights to this layman.

And I just LOVE the popup ads on this site, constantly scrolling what's left of viewable desktop. Slopeside, I'm staying away just BECAUSE of that obnoxious ad.

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Scott Wedel 11 months, 4 weeks ago

So why are you willing to play lawyer without even looking up legal procedure?

Defense does not get to call witnesses at the preliminary hearing because the purpose of the preliminary hearing is not to determine guilt, but whether the prosecution has enough evidence to proceed to trial.

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rhys jones 11 months, 4 weeks ago

Colorado Court Rules: Rule 5(a)(4)(II) The preliminary hearing shall be held before a judge of the county court in which the felony complaint has been filed. The defendant shall not be called upon to plead. The defendant may cross-examine the prosecutor's witnesses and may introduce evidence.

Five minutes is all that took. Get a life.

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rhys jones 11 months, 4 weeks ago

That would include the prosecutor's witnesses who did not testify at this hearing, as their testimony is potentially the most damaging, and thus the most critical for scrutiny. The law allows for the public to be excluded for sensitive parts of this proceeding, but the defendant cannot be denied his right to question his accusers before formal charges are filed.

This is why people pay for real lawyers, and why we are just two fools yapping. At least I'll admit it, while ceding nothing.

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Scott Wedel 11 months, 4 weeks ago

The defense has the right to cross examine witnesses that haven't testified?

Do a bit more research on what "cross examine" means.

It is a standard prosecutor move to "protect" some witnesses by not having them testify at the preliminary hearing. On rare occasions it can backfire if the judge rules the prosecutor didn't present enough evidence to go to trial.

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rhys jones 11 months, 4 weeks ago

Rule 501. Privileges Recognized Only as Provided.

... no person has a privilege to:

(4) Prevent another from being a witness or disclosing any matter or producing any object or writing.

Rule applies to all stages of an action and is applicable to pretrial discovery. Sherman v. District Court, 637 P.2d 378 (Colo. 1981).

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Scott Wedel 11 months, 4 weeks ago

Yes, at trial, if the prosecution does not call a person as a witness then the defense is allowed to call the person. And it is not legal for anyone to stop anyone else from being a witness. And both sides get to cross examine witnesses called by the other side.

But at the preliminary hearing, only the prosecution is allowed to call witnesses And so, the witnesses that are not called are not available for cross examination.

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rhys jones 11 months, 3 weeks ago

If I were a REAL attorney, doing this for money, I might argue that "introduce evidence" would include calling witnesses, as well as physical evidence -- especially the most damaging witnesses the prosecution can introduce -- as nobody can prevent it, per Rule 501...

But I'm not, so I am going to go ahead and concede the point, my ego can take it. I've got a surprise day off, and something resembling a real life, which includes many things besides hovering over these forums, intent on proving how smart I am to the world.

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john bailey 11 months, 4 weeks ago

Rhys, nice research if you have 5 minutes to spare , what is your retainer fee? as for Oz, we will need a ruling as soon as Dan and Jerry can be found. ~;0)

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rhys jones 11 months, 4 weeks ago

"Lawyers dwell off small details..." -- Don Henley

While the Colorado Revised Statutes and Court Rules are easily accessed, and the annotations somewhat informative, only a fool swears by those alone -- they are just the tip of the iceberg, a spider web beneath... to see if your annotation really applies, you've got to read the trial itself, maybe that was just a side point, or irrelevant in your case -- which requires a trip to a library; I LOVE Fleming Law at CU.

But I'm just a jailhouse lawyer, and not a very good one at that, I've seen much better... I just do what I have to, to minimize damages, usually unable to afford counsel, and once, having burned through the available PD's.

The statutes are fascinating, the branches and conditions many. If there's one thing I learned from my brother the real lawyer, it's that you HAVE to be better researched than your opponent. Anticipate his arguments, and prepare to counter those. Your research will often reveal the skeletons in your closet, and how to counter those (if you can).

Even still, I froze, when the time was crucial, not objecting to hearsay, or theatrics, failing to get evidence excluded, not noting disappeared samples, not even testifying, so confident was I that obvious perjury would quash everything, yet I somehow allowed that to be dismissed as mistake.

No, you don't want ME in your corner. Get a real lawyer.

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Dan Kuechenmeister 11 months, 4 weeks ago

He comes across like he knows everything about every thing and thus he believes he is the smartest person in the room. I will admit that from time to time he does come up with some reasonable info but dang he posts opinions on a lot of stuff on this blog. My guess is he would win the MVP - Most Volume of Posts - award, if our local paper awarded one. With all his knowledge he should run for office. Speaking of politicians - like the segue - here is what Congressman Keith Ellison - Democrat from the great state of Minnesota (my home state until we moved here last July) said on July 25th 2013.

“The bottom line is we’re not broke, there’s plenty of money, it’s just the government doesn’t have it,” Ellison said.

“The government has a right — the government and the people of the United States have a right to run the programs of the United States. Health, welfare, housing — all these things,” he added.

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mark hartless 11 months, 3 weeks ago

I'd love to see how that worked for someone with an over-drawn checking account... "No maam, I'm not overdrawn, there's plenty of money, it's just not in MY account..."

Unfortunately the masses have discovered they can vote themselves largess from the public coffers and Mr. Ellison is merely saying what so many Americans really and truly believe.

They WILL follow him blissfully right into the abyss and drag the rest of us along...

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jerry carlton 11 months, 3 weeks ago

Rhys As a team, it seems that except for one year, they are perpetual underachievers. Changing managers does not help and changing p;ayers over the years does not help. Fixing them is above my paygrade. Wow! I just described all levels of government. Must be some hidden meaning here?

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Bob Smith 11 months, 3 weeks ago

But at the preliminary hearing, only the prosecution is allowed to call witnesses And so, the witnesses that are not called are not available for cross examination..... Bingo

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rhys jones 11 months, 3 weeks ago

Bob -- I saw nowhere in the law which specifically precluded the defense from calling witnesses at a preliminary hearing -- still awaiting a citation to the contrary -- but I DID find, and cite, where the defense may "introduce evidence" which would logically include calling witnesses, including and especially those of the prosecution.

We are all arguing from ignorance, myself included. The only educated contributor has not commented since the first entry. Three years of law school, and the point is still arguable, as there appear to be contradictions in the law. They made it that way on purpose, so lawyers can have jobs. Until I hear from someone with a law degree, all the opinions ventured here are worth what we paid for them: Squat.

Jerry -- "Underachievers" is a good word -- they don't play up to their potential. I think it's the coaching, the mindset with which they approach the game. They don't play to win, they play not to lose.

I'll cite my favorite, Tulo, as an example. Despite his physical gifts, hand-eye coordination, rarely bestowed by God, he remains a wimp. The other day, against Pittsburgh, a grounder bounced his way, guy on second halfway to third already... Troy could have picked him off at third, with a snap throw, but he went with the safe play instead, throwing out the guy at first... later, guy on third scores, starting the romp.

So Tulo's up to bat, watches two beautiful strikes sail by -- as usual -- doesn't swing until it's 2 strikes, in desperation -- fouls that one off -- then finally "earns" a walk. Seven pitches, and he moved wood once, a foul ball. That's why I say, trade the loser while he's worth something. (you watch, tonight he'll be the hero, demonstrating the validity of my considered opinions)

One difference between Rockies and govt: Coaches can be easily fired.

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Dan Kuechenmeister 11 months, 3 weeks ago

Rhys, It takes a lot of good fortune as well as players and coaches to get to the top of the heap. In 1987 my Mn. Twinkies finished 85 and 77 (29 - 52 on the road) yet won the AL West and in doing so had home field advantage through out the playoffs and world series. They lost every road game in the World Series, Yet won the World Series. The year before they won their first World Series they finished 71 - 91. From 1978 to 1986 they finished over .500 once and they played .450 ball for those 9 years. They then won the World Series in 1987 and 1991. Never give up hope. I still believe the MN. Vikings will win a Super It's no dream - it's a nightmare.

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rhys jones 11 months, 3 weeks ago

Dan -- When I was a kid in South Dakota, we rooted for the Twinkies too!! Harmon Killebrew (whom my coach said he taught how to bat) Tony Oliva, that was a fun team to watch.

We were Chiefs fans. living outside KC, when they handed the Vikes one of their Super Bowl losses. I still think Otis Taylor is one of the top ten receivers ever.

Watching these Rockies is like watching the pre-'77 Broncos, before Joe Collier turned that team around. Joe was a defensive genius, but the Rockies need OFFENSE.

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rhys jones 11 months, 3 weeks ago

Legal Hacks: If I were of a mind to prove how smart I am, I'd start with that Sherman case above, which says "all stages of an action." I'd hope to find it in the Colorado Reports at Bud Werner, saving me a trip to Boulder. Of course, that case would cite three or four other cases, each of which needs to be researched for relevance -- then each of those, another three or four cases -- before you know it, you're five cases deep, Sherman way back there... and with my luck, one of the citations would be in a jurisdiction not covered at Werner, necessitating a trip to Fleming Law anyway.

I am not that motivated, just to win a pissing contest with self-proclaimed experts. Still waiting to hear from someone with a relevant education.

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Scott Wedel 11 months, 3 weeks ago

Rhys,

Bill Schurman already told you the judge didn't violate Colorado court procedure. If any of your claims on how you think could work were accurate then his statement would not be true and the defense would have solid grounds for appeal.

The simple reason why the defense is so limited at the preliminary hearing is because that hearing is only to determine if there is probable cause to proceed to trial. Thus, the question is whether the prosecution has enough facts and not whether the defense has enough facts to prove the defendant is innocent.

Our adversarial legal system believes that both sides questioning a witness is needed to get the testimony accurate. So a cross examination is not the defense presenting evidence, but part of the process of making the testimony accurate and complete.

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rhys jones 11 months, 3 weeks ago

Well shiver me timbers, I never saw Bill's response two days ago, otherwise I might not have pursued this argument so vigorously -- but now that I have...

And even though the law will allow hearsay testimony at a preliminary hearing, and all evidence must be taken in a light most favorable to the prosecution... AND the prosecution is not required to provide all of their witnesses at that time...

I would STILL maintain that the defense should have access to the lead witnesses against them at this time, before they have more time to mesh their stories, or be coached, while facts are freshest in memory... the defense should be allowed the opportunity to reveal inconsistencies, before formal charges are filed.

I would contend that Rule 5, "introduce evidence" along with 501 "No person has a privilege to... Prevent another from being a witness" and Sherman at "all stages of an action," in combination, should serve to limit the discretionary power of the Judge to exclude witnesses.

I'd expect the lawyer I hired to word it better, for the appeal, but there seems to be a statutory basis for my arguments. Even Brothers should be allowed to confront his accusers, early in the proceedings, before serious damage is done.

But that's just me. Call me a dreamer.

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rhys jones 11 months, 3 weeks ago

"The criminal defense lawyer may call witnesses, including the defendant, at the preliminary hearing."

This from the Law Office of H. Michael Steinberg, Denver

http://www.colorado-drug-crimes-lawyer.com/frequently-asked-questions-on-colorado-drug-crimes-law-and-defense/colorado-preliminary-hearings-law-and-practice-part-ii-of-ii-the-hearing/

So the appropriateness of excluding these particular witnesses will be the issue at appeal.

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rhys jones 11 months, 3 weeks ago

Not necessarily the appropriateness, but even the legality, of excluding those witnesses, will be the issue, if I read Rule 501 correctly. The Court has at its option excluding the public, for sensitive testimony, but it cannot preclude the witnesses' appearance. My take, anyway. Which is almost as worthless as the other opinions expressed here.

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Scott Wedel 11 months, 3 weeks ago

Did you read your link?

"The hearing is less valuable and the waiver more understandable in Colorado where typically only agents and officers testify, and the testimony consists of hearsay and multiple hearsay."

So obviously not all of the prosecution witnesses including the victim normally testify at the preliminary hearing.

"Calling prosecution witnesses in the criminal defense lawyerr case may seem a clever idea, particularly when the prosecution relies on an interviewing officer’s hearsay recitation of the witness’s story.

However, in litigation clever ideas generally turn out to be bad ones.

Prosecutors and judges are wary of this technique and will demand an offer of proof before permitting the testimony.

If the criminal defense lawyer have not interviewed the witness, the criminal defense lawyer has nothing to proffer"

Case closed. Thanks for the research.

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rhys jones 11 months, 3 weeks ago

What a dufus. Just because it may not be good practice in many cases does not make it illegal. Every case is unique. The defense has the right to call any relevant witness it wants. Whether the Judge has the right to exclude a witness is the issue. In this case the defense wanted the witnesses to testify, and the Judge denied them that right. You tell the lawyers they are stupid, o ye of such sound legal comprehension. Now they have grounds for appeal.

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rhys jones 11 months, 3 weeks ago

Bill -- I may be in error, but that "in his discretion" seems in opposition to Rule 501, as those protections theoretically exist at "all stages" but what do I know? I just can't help calling out the twerp, who demonstrated in his last comment his thorough misunderstanding of the subject. He/they have maintained until now that the defense can't call witnesses at a prelim, until a real lawyer said otherwise. Then used faulty logic in attempting to discredit me; the premises did not support the conclusion, but quite the opposite -- they ASSUMED the defense could call witnesses. Watch the fish flop, what tripe will escape next time...

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Scott Wedel 11 months, 3 weeks ago

"The defense has the right to call any relevant witness it wants"

So you don't read your links or much of what other people post.

You ignore that Bill Schurman said there was no error and yet you say you think there is grounds for appeal. You ignore your own link stating the defense needs to offer proof of what the witness will say and convince the judge why that is relevant.

You ignore that 501 is about blocking testimony of witnesses and not requiring the DA call ever possible witness at the preliminary hearing.

You ignore your own link stating that typically only agents and officer testify at the preliminary hearing.

You ignore that the preliminary hearing is not a trial, but to determine if the prosecution has enough evidence to have probable cause and so the case proceeds to trial.

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Dan Kuechenmeister 11 months, 3 weeks ago

Jerry, John - I think Rhys needs an intervention. He is trying to go toe to toe with he who knows all.

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rhys jones 11 months, 3 weeks ago

Dan, Jerry, John, other rational friends: I'm just egging on the egghead, filling time on a rather dreary day. While Bill admits the Judge was legal in excluding witnesses, it was also obvious in his commentary that he has problems with that. So do I.

  • The defense should have little trouble establishing that the prosecution's lead witnesses' testimony would be "relevant."

  • 501 says "no person" shall prevent another from testifying; I take that to include Judges (though Bill might say they have special privileges) forget who the DA has to call.

  • Who "typically" appears bears no relevance whatsoever, as this case is anything but typical. While the website I cited generally discourages the practice, obviously the attorneys in the instant case felt there was some advantage to discrediting the lead witnesses, possibly avoiding a lengthy trial, and they were denied that opportunity. I can't question their strategy.

  • Until a half hour ago, we were hearing how the defense can't call witnesses at a prelim whatsoever. The story changes by the minute.

You might be right, Dan. Never argue with a fool, lest observers wonder which is which. But it's fun, watching the genius waffle. Now back to my Michener. Good night!!

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jerry carlton 11 months, 3 weeks ago

If a tree falls in the woods and no one was there to hear it, did it make a noise? If Oz makes a post and no one responds, was the post really made?

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rhys jones 11 months, 3 weeks ago

Sorry to break ranks again, Jerry, but some idiocy demands a response. I thought I had the beast quelled, then YOU spoke up. Now he'll HAVE to respond. I can hardly wait to see how he squirms next (not).

For three days we heard how the defense can't call witnesses at a preliminary hearing, so I took ten minutes to Google that wrong, and THAT was twisted and used against me.

I believe The Fish has serious cognizance issues; while possibly extremely intelligent, his observations are tainted by his preconceptions, and he seeks not knowledge, but verification.

I would seriously suggest courses in logic and argumentative analysis. Not everyone is as stupid as some presume.

I missed several of Tulo's AB's last night, heard he whiffed twice, don't know if swinging or not -- the one I did see, he swung at the first pitch, driving the ball off the third baseman's mitt for a single, so I felt properly humbled for being so critical. The Rocks lost anyway. Bummer, eh?

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Scott Wedel 11 months, 3 weeks ago

What a joke.

Already been told by the former public defender that there is no grounds for appeal and then claims victory.

Fact remains that defense has NO RIGHT to call witnesses at the preliminary hearing. At the judge's discretion the defense can be allowed to call witnesses.

Rule 501 about preventing witnesses from testifying does not mean the defense has a right to call witnesses at the preliminary hearing.

No coherent reason given why in this case that normal procedures are inadequate and the defense should be allowed to call the victim. You do realize the victim claims to have experienced child abuse and testifying about the crime is not pleasant for the victim? Victim is willing to testify at trial, but is being spared an exceptional deviation from normal procedures of being also forced to testify at the preliminary hearing.

I continue responding only because your posts further discredit yourself. Looks like that is complete now.

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rhys jones 11 months, 3 weeks ago

Judge for yourself, friends. Obtuse reaches new levels. You knew it would come.

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Dan Kuechenmeister 11 months, 3 weeks ago

An observation. There are 2 adversaries in the debate. One defends his side with research while conceding that he may not be 100% correct. The other just continually basically says you are wrong and states his case using his research, never conceding anything. When it comes to the law it appears to me there is plenty of ambiguity thus lawyers and judges are brought in.

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mark hartless 11 months, 3 weeks ago

Ahhh yes... good 'ole Ambiguity... ally to the guilty and nemisis of the righteous since man exited Eden...

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rhys jones 11 months, 3 weeks ago

Longer reply: To date in this brouhaha, our legal prodigy has provided ONE citation, which said "Get a lawyer for your prelim, it could really help." Like, duh.

Otherwise he has been content to try to pick apart my citations, unwilling or unable to provide his own, misinterpreting them to fit his arguments... first defenses couldn't call witnesses at all, then they could but it was a bad idea, now they can't again...

By now the appealability of it becomes a side issue, I find the squirms and faulty logic far more entertaining, and I must say, some originality might be nice.

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Dan Kuechenmeister 11 months, 3 weeks ago

Rhys, I don't know where he finds his time to research and attempt to debate you as he is so busy posting on other articles.

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john bailey 11 months, 3 weeks ago

a valiant effort there, Rhys. but alas, talking to a brick wall will be most satisfying , no? I guess I could go and get arrested and see first hand who is correct. i'll need help with bail and a competent lawyer.~;0)..... any takers? how the heck did the rockies fall that many games back in such a short amount of time is beyond me. they should have just fell apart in June..........hey, I had time to wash my hair this a.m. still not any better , so free hula lesson this Monday, I gotta work......

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rhys jones 11 months, 3 weeks ago

Dan -- Point taken -- between real estate, night skiing, and accidents in Hayden, no wonder the Wonder Boy can't provide an original citation, so many distractions, and those codes being so complex...

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