Friday, May 20, 2005
A Weld County man was found not guilty Thursday of sexually assaulting his stepchildren, and his accusers worried the outcome might frighten other alleged victims from telling their stories.
The man, whose name is being withheld, appeared emotional but happy when he emerged from the courthouse into the bright sunlight.
His accusers, including his 17-year-old former stepdaughter, looked down when they emerged a while later.
In a later phone interview, the children's mother said she thought the length of time between the alleged acts -- six years -- and the trial may have hurt the case.
"If you are a victim of this type of crime, please don't let the outcome of this case prevent you from coming forward," she said.
Names of those involved are being withheld because the Tribune does not identify those who allege sexual assault.
The case was wrought with twists and turns, including allegations of lies and deception by the accusers.
Two other charges of sexual assault against the man were dropped abruptly last month at a pretrial conference.
His defense attorney, Derek Samuelson, said his client was innocent and that the man's ex-wife conspired with her children to concoct the tales of abuse.
The man had been accused of sexually assaulting his now-17-year-old stepdaughter, 11 at the time, and her younger sister and brother.
The 17-year-old, a junior at Greeley West High School, told the jury that in 1999, when the family was living in Hudson, her stepfather repeatedly forced her to undress for him and perform sexual acts.
Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Clegern said the accusers were handling the not guilty verdict well.
"They are obviously disappointed," she said.
Part of Samuelson's defense argument involved the alleged victims' credibility, especially that of the alleged male victim, who was 10 when the assaults allegedly happened. He is now 16 and no longer living with his mother.
Court records show the boy passed a polygraph test when the stepfather was initially arrested in February 2004.
Family issues involving the Weld County Department of Social Services and the boy's mental history also complicated the case.