Counselor found guilty on five sex charges
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. Minutes before midnight on Tuesday, 12 jurors in 9th Judicial District Court convicted former child care counselor Charalene Bera of charges arising from sexual contact with three teenage boys in her care at the Emily Griffith Center in Rifle.Judge Daniel Petre read the results for each charge and asked each juror individually if that was in fact their verdict.The jury found her guilty on five charges: three counts of sexual assault on a child 15- to 17-years-old by a person in a position of trust; one count of sexual assault on a child, victim in custody; and one count of unlawful sexual contact, victim in custody.Bera, 28, received not guilty verdicts on two other charges: sexual assault on a child 15- to 17-years-old by a person in a position of trust and sexual assault on a child with a victim in custody.”I didn’t do it,” Bera said while leaving the courthouse with family members. “Which we maintained throughout the entire case,” defense attorney Joseph Olt added.The two not guilty verdicts arose from charges involving sexual contact with one of the 17-year-olds. One juror, Jose Sanchez, said, “My point of view is that we did not have enough evidence beyond a reasonable doubt to say she was guilty on those two counts.” He said he could not go into more specific details. Other jurors either declined to comment or did not return phone messages.At the time of the incidents early last year, two of the boys were 17 and one was 15. Each had been legally ordered to be at the center for troubled youth for crimes they had committed such as burglary, theft, assault on a police officer and drug use.The 15-year-old said Bera came into his room one night after lights out while doing a “room check” and performed oral sex on him. His 17-year-old roommate testified that he walked in on them while coming back from the bathroom. He said he grabbed his Playstation Portable and left to “give them their time.” She came back later and sat on his bed, eventually having sex with him, he said.The second 17-year-old said he later escaped from the center by climbing down a rope from a second-story window after telling Bera and another counselor of his plans. He went to her apartment in Parachute after contemplating killing himself by jumping off a bridge, and had sex with her on her bed. He said she had offered to help him escape, and they drove to Delta where they were arrested on their way to Cortez. A supervisor from the center had trailed them and alerted police while receiving tips from the boy’s mother via cell phone.According to a Delta Police report, Bera originally said that she was there to visit a sick aunt. She later said she had been kidnapped and that the boy told her he had a knife.The essence of her defense was that the boys made up the story to get back at her for reporting their contraband and suspected drug use at the center. But Assistant District Attorney Jeff Cheney’s case convinced the jurors beyond a reasonable doubt of her guilt for five of the seven charges. Some of the main components of the prosecution’s case included the three boys’ testimony and that of another employee who said she saw Bera come out of the room looking suspicious and adjusting her clothing hurriedly. The employee was also surprised that Bera did not carry a flashlight – standard procedure for room checks at the center.In a bizarre twist, one juror was removed Tuesday afternoon after being identified as having some connection with a sex offense or sex offender. An alternate juror was called and agreed to drive from Battlement Mesa for the late-night deliberation.Sanchez said the juror who was removed was the same juror who “for some reason didn’t want to cooperate.”Bera is allowed to remain free on bond until a sentence hearing set for April 27 at 10 a.m.Judge Petre thanked the jurors for their time after reading the verdict.”Your questions showed a lot of insight and engagement in the process,” he said.Contact Pete Fowler: 945-8515, ext. email@example.comPost Independent, Glenwood Springs Colorado CO
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