Mistrial declared in Routt County child sex assault case because of hung jury

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— Despite deliberating for 10 hours until 2 a.m Friday, a Routt County jury was unable to unanimously decide on a verdict for the 40-year-old Stagecoach man charged with sexually assaulting a child who was 7 at the time.

With a split jury, Routt County Chief Deputy District Attorney Rusty Prindle said District Judge Shelley Hill declared a mistrial.

“We’re back at square one, essentially,” Prindle said.

A status conference will be held in the coming weeks to decide how to proceed.

The District Attorney’s Office could reattempt to negotiate a plea deal, or it could decide to again take the case to trial with a new jury.

This trial lasted four days before the jury was given the case Thursday afternoon.

The man has been charged with sex assault on a child, a Class 4 felony; sex assault on a child with a pattern of abuse, a Class 3 felony; and sex assault on a child under the age of 15, a Class 4 felony.

Before closing arguments Thursday, the defendant took the stand to testify. He denied the allegations.

According to testimony this week, a woman from the Denver area had visited the Stagecoach man at his home on two occasions with her two young sons and two daughters.

The woman and man became friends after meeting while playing a game over the Internet. According to testimony, their friendship did not evolve into a physical relationship.

A few months after the May 2012 visits, the mother testified that her 7-year-old son told her that the Stagecoach man had had sexual contact with him.

While testifying Wednesday, the boy was unable to identify the man in the courtroom who is accused of sexually assaulting him. The defendant was wearing an eyepatch because of a medical issue.

Prosecutors also were unable to get the boy to discuss in court the details of the sex assaults that he previously had shared with investigators. The jury instead heard the details during testimony from the investigators.

Steamboat Springs attorney Larry Combs represented the the Stagecoach man during the trial.

Prindle prosecuted the case with District Attorney Brett Barkey.

“What this comes down to is this man took advantage of a 7-year-old boy,” Barkey said while pointing to the man during closing arguments.

Combs argued that the boy’s father had fabricated the sex assault stories and that the father then had coached his son to tell the lies to his mother and investigators.

The Steamboat Pilot & Today typically does not identify those accused of sex crimes until they have been convicted.

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

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