Hostile witness

Police retrieve alleged victim to testify at Pogline hearing

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County Judge Mary Lynne James ordered police to retrieve a witness who failed to appear in court Wednesday.

Valerie Guevara is the alleged victim in a case that charges two Craig brothers -- James Pogline and Steven Pogline -- with second-degree assault and menacing with a deadly weapon. Each man is being held on a $500,000 bond in the case.

Court documents allege the brothers held Guevara and forcibly injected her with a drug after she argued with the brothers over the "drug business."

Guevara did not show up at the preliminary hearing in the case, though she had been subpoenaed as a witness. She had been called as a witness for the defense by Kristopher Hammond, Steven Pogline's attorney. She had told prosecutors she did not want to participate in the case.

James sent officers to Columbine Apartments to find Guevara. After a short period of time, 14th Judicial District Attorney Bonnie Roesink updated the court, saying that officers were standing at Guevara's door but were hesitant to proceed without a warrant.

"The order is that they are to bring her to court," James said. "Technically, her failure to appear is a contempt of court."

Minutes later, Craig police Cpl. Bryan Gonzales arrived with Guevara. She appeared reluctant and angry.

"There's going to be no testimony," she said, taking the stand. She answered some of the questions posed by Hammond but refused to name either James or Steven Pogline as her attackers.

"You can't testify here whether Mr. Steven or James Pogline harmed you on April 9?" Hammond asked Guevara.

"No," she replied.

Guevara said she didn't remember 90 percent of what happened on the night of the incident. She said she didn't want to talk to police or prosecutors or participate in the case, which she called a "private" matter.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Amy Fitch asserted that Guevara was afraid to testify. Guevara is "terrified" of the Pogline brothers, Fitch said at the hearing.

Fitch asked Guevara whether she remembered telling Fitch that she was afraid for her safety and the safety of her children.

Guevara said no.

Fitch asked Guevara whether she remembered telling Craig police Officer Sue Burns something similar June 17. Guevara said no. Burns visited the woman to show her a photo lineup that contained pictures of James Pogline and Steven Pogline. Burns said the woman was asked to circle the pictures of her attackers and had no trouble pointing to the photos of the Poglines.

Guevara remembered it differently.

"All that was said is that if I circled the pictures of James and Steve I wouldn't have to be here," Guevara said. "I wanted all this left alone. It's personal."

Guevara told the officer she would not testify in the case because she was afraid of the brothers, Burns said.

Hammond asked the court not to bind over the case to Moffat County District Court because of a lack of evidence. James Pogline was represented by Leslie Goldstein, who made a similar request.

"The victim testified under oath that there was no crime," Hammond said. "The evidence is so lacking that this case should be dismissed now." Also, Hammond asked James to look down the road at all the difficulties the case would bring to the district court.

"Ms. Guevara is the opposite of a helpful witness for the state," Hammond said.

Fitch compared the case to a domestic violence case in which the victim refuses to testify. Fitch said she had prosecuted a number of such cases.

Fitch said the evidence consisted of Burns' observations of Guevara on the night of the alleged incident and Guevara's identification of her alleged attackers via the photo lineup.

Burns observed Guevara in an "obviously intoxicated state" and saw a needle mark on the woman's arm, the officer testified. Because there was no odor of alcohol, it corroborated Guevara's allegation that she had been forcibly injected with a drug, Fitch said.

James declined to rule on the matter immediately. She said she expects to issue a ruling early next week. Before adjourning the hearing, James issued a stern warning to the audience, saying that anyone who intimidates Guevara will be subject to serious consequences, including "a very high bond."

Jeremy Browning can be reached at 824-7031 or jbrowning@craigdailypress.com

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