Western Slope teen may have sexually assaulted as many as 10 girls
PITKIN COUNTY — A Woody Creek teenager already charged with sexually assaulting four girls may have as many as 10 total victims, a prosecutor said Friday in Pitkin County District Court.
The allegations against the 17-year-old came to light Friday after his attorney asked a district judge to reduce the boy’s $300,000 cash-only bonds, which the judge immediately denied.
“There are no fewer than 10 victims listed in the discovery (for the case),” said Don Nottingham, deputy district attorney.
Nottingham said he might not file charges in the remaining six cases against the 17-year-old because of “standard evidence problems” that plague sexual assault cases. Nonetheless, he said the number of victims demonstrates the teen’s “pattern of escalation” that began with indecent exposure, graduated to alleged sexual assault without force, then led to alleged sexual assault that included using restraints and strangulation.
Despite the fact that the teen has been charged as an adult, The Aspen Times is not identifying him. That’s because his attorney has requested a hearing to transfer the cases back to juvenile court, which is expected to occur in May.
The suspect is currently charged with sexually assaulting three teenage girls and a girl who was 4 years old at the time of the alleged assault. The victims currently range in age from 8 to 19, Nottingham said.
Trent Trani, the teen’s Denver-based lawyer, asked District Judge Chris Seldin to lower three $100,000 cash-only bonds set in his client’s cases to between $22,500 and $45,000. Federal and state laws governing bonds only allow a judge to take into account whether the defendant will show up to his court dates when setting a bond amount, Trani said.
“You can consider community safety and the safety of individuals when setting bond,” he said.
Further, Nottingham said he spoke to nine of the 10 alleged victims in the case, and “each expresses fear of the defendant getting out (of detention).”
“The people (remain concerned) that the defendant’s escalation may continue,” he said. “(If his bond is reduced), it could cause significant psychological trauma (to the alleged victims). Their wellbeing is at stake when we talk about reducing bond.”
Finally, Nottingham said the 17-year-old is facing hundreds of years in prison if convicted of the charges now filed against him, so he also has significant reason to flee if let out on bond.
Trani, however, said the number of victims and the number of years he’s facing do not matter when setting bond.
“The alleged escalation of his behavior doesn’t matter,” Trani said. “The potential trauma of the victims doesn’t matter, and certainly doesn’t supersede (the defendant’s) constitutional rights.”
Seldin didn’t buy the argument.
“I understand the bond argument, but I’m not persuaded by it,” he said.
The court can, indeed, take community safety into account when setting bond, Seldin said. Also, the possible penalties the teen is facing do create a possibility of flight, he said.
The teen is currently being held at a juvenile detention center in Grand Junction. However, he is set to turn 18 next month, when he will be automatically transferred to the Pitkin County Jail, Trani said.
When that happens, Trani said he is concerned that the teen will be incarcerated with a co-defendant, Keegan Callahan, in one of the cases filed against him. He asked that Callahan be transferred to the Garfield County Jail after his client turns 18.
“(The 17-year-old) is a child,” Trani said. “Mr. Callahan is an adult.”
Seldin did not rule on the request.
The teen’s reverse transfer hearing is scheduled for May 8 to 10.
2:10 a.m. On the 400 block of Washington Street, police in Craig responded to an animal complaint. Craig police said a caller reported being bitten by a dog and police continue to investigate.