Jury acquits Cruz-Gallardo
Following three days of trial, a jury acquitted Gildardo Cruz-Gallardo, a 41-year-old Glenwood Springs man charged in an attempted sexual assault on a child case, on all charges Thursday.
In this year-long case he faced charges of attempted child prostitution, enticement of a child, contributing to the delinquency of a minor and attempted sexual assault on a child, all felonies.
Cruz-Gallardo was arrested in February 2015 after he’d picked up an 11-year-old female runaway at the Glenwood Springs 7-Eleven.
He gave the girl a ride, but she said she didn’t want to go home, as previously reported by the Post Independent. He took her to a warehouse where he worked in south Glenwood Springs for about an hour.
The girl later told police that he offered her money and propositioned her at the warehouse. She said no, and he later dropped her back off at the gas station with $20 for a taxi, said 9th Judicial District Attorney Sherry Caloia.
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Cruz-Gallardo had only taken her to the warehouse because she was looking for a place to stay, and he wanted to show her that it was too cold there, Glenwood Springs attorney Ted Hess, his defense, wrote in an email to the Post Independent.
The next day he made incriminating statements to police about not wanting to be a sex offender, said Hess. Cruz-Gallardo made these statements only because he knew that he’d put himself in an incriminating situation and that he should have called the police, said the defense attorney.
The man was accused of propositioning the girl for sex at the warehouse, but not for carrying out any further sexual acts, which is a difficult kind of case to prosecute, said Caloia.
“The case came down to the believability of the alleged victim” and some key missteps in the investigation, said Hess.
An investigator, who had previous connections with the young girl’s mother, allowed the mother to be present during his interview with the 11-year-old. The defense called in an expert witness to testify to the power of suggestion that parents have over their children.
In a case like this where the prosecution doesn’t have a physical act, “it’s incumbent on us to convince the jury that (these acts) would have happened,” said Caloia. “And that can be a hard leap for a jury to make.”
This case was tried in a previous trial in September, but it resulted in a hung jury.
Hess said he’s been in touch with a jury member of the first trial. And the jury member said the decision was split 8-to-4 in favor of convicting Cruz-Gallardo.
The DA said she doesn’t have any doubts in hindsight about prosecuting the case all the way to two trials. “I totally stand for the fact that sometimes we have to take these hard cases to trial. The only alternative is to ignore them.”
“It was a hard case, but we thought we had a reasonable likelihood of success,” she said.
Leading up to the trials the prosecution offered no plea deals. The prosecutors weren’t going to make a plea deal offering charges lower than a sex offense, so “there was no quarter offered, and no quarter asked for,” said Hess.
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More charges are pending against a 54-year-old Rifle man accused of child sexual assault and a pattern of abuse over several years involving multiple victims.