Deputy will not be charged
October 15, 2004
The District Attorney’s Office reported Friday that it will not file charges against a former sheriff’s deputy who was fired six months ago and accused of allegedly having sex with a high school student.
In a letter sent Thursday to the Routt County Sheriff’s Office, Assistant District Attorney Kerry St. James said the girl, who was 17 at the time of the incident, was unwilling to cooperate with the investigation.
Routt County Sheriff John Warner reacted to the decision Friday.
“I stand by the termination of (the deputy) for moral and ethical violations of our policies and procedures,” he said.
“It is extremely unfortunate that criminal charges can’t be filed because of the victim not being able to cooperate,” he said.
The former deputy’s attorney, Charles Feldmann, was not immediately available for comment.
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The DA’s Office had considered charging the 34-year-old Steamboat Springs man with sexual assault on a child by a person in a position of trust. The DA’s Office thought there was enough evidence to present to a jury that the girl fit the definition of a child, that the deputy was in a position of trust and that the girl acknowledged they engaged in sexual intercourse on five or six occasions in the fall and winter of 2003.
“Unfortunately, the information and detail needed to pursue a prosecution to trial in this matter is significantly incomplete. This is a result of an unwillingness on the part of (the girl) to cooperate in the investigation of this matter. She has and continues to refuse to answer the questions that must be answered to pursue a prosecution of this case,” St. James wrote.
The letter goes on to state the girl was aware that her refusal to cooperate means the state can’t pursue prosecution. “In fact, it is her desire that a prosecution not go forward, and she seeks to actively obstruct any efforts to prosecute this matter,” the letter states.
St. James also noted that the deputy had exercised his right not to answer any questions asked by a state investigator. Shortly after the deputy’s termination from the sheriff’s office, he retained Feldmann, who required that all communications between the DA’s Office and the deputy had to go through him.
All efforts to interview the deputy were fruitless, the letter noted.
According to the letter from the DA’s Office, the girl and the deputy were involved in a school-sanctioned program during the 2003-04 school year.
The deputy was placed on administrative leave in April, when allegations surfaced about a sexual relationship between him and the student. He was fired less than two days later, after a brief internal investigation, and the sheriff’s office handed the case to the DA’s Office for further investigation and possible prosecution.
According to the letter, Investigator Ray Birch learned that the girl gave an initial interview to Routt County Sheriff’s Office investigators Rachelle Redmond and Ken Klinger. In that interview, she denied having sexual contact with the deputy.
On the same day, the girl gave a statement to Undersheriff Dan Taylor in which she said that for about two months, she had a consensual, intimate relationship with the deputy. She said their relationship included sexual intercourse on a number of occasions.
Another deputy reportedly told an investigator the man in question had told him he had sexual contact with the girl numerous times.
More than a month later, Birch interviewed the girl, who then refused to answer any questions about any sexual activity with the deputy, except to say they had intercourse fewer times than she had told Taylor.
The girl also reportedly forbade her parents to speak to Birch. The parents respected those wishes.
In deciding whether to press charges, St. James wrote that he had to consider the probability of conviction on those charges and that the prosecution should file only charges that it thinks can be substantiated by admissible evidence at trial.
“The lack of cooperation on the part of (the girl) makes the likelihood of a conviction not only uncertain, but an impossibility,” the letter states.
Although the DA’s Office has decided not to press charges at this time, the statue of limitations keeps the case opened for 10 years from the date the girl reached the age of 18. The state reserved the right to reconsider the charges if the girl agrees to cooperate in the investigation or if additional information from other witnesses becomes available.