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Former DA questions dropping case

Former District Attorney Mac Myers said Thursday that a sexual assault case dropped this week was “very prosecutable” when he left office in January.Three experienced prosecutors investigated the case against Alfred Owens, Myers said, contradicting a statement public defender Greg Greer made in a Glenwood Springs courtroom Wednesday.All charges were dropped that day against Owens, a 53-year-old former Silt resident who had been facing at least 10 counts of sexual assault on children. Owens’ case was scheduled for trial May 31 before the district attorney’s office dismissed it Wednesday.Assistant District Attorney Vince Felletter said there was not enough evidence to support going to trial. Before he made his decision, he said he discussed the options with the alleged victims, twin boys who were in their teens at the time, a girl in southern Colorado and their families.”I’m not saying certainly that I don’t believe the boys,” Felletter said. “Attorneys can have different feelings on whether a case is tryable or not, but the fact stands, those attorneys did not try the case. So it’s easy for them to say now, ‘Oh, we think we had a good case.'”In the hearing two days ago, Greer said the case had never been reviewed by an experienced prosecutor. Commenting by e-mail, Myers, now a deputy district attorney in Cortez, refuted that.He said the three experienced prosecutors – “By experienced prosecutor, I mean a lawyer having at least 10 years of experience working in a DA’s office and having significant felony trial experience” – all concluded the case should be brought to trial.”Jeff Cheney was given the case when Jim Wilson left the office in January,” Myers said. “And Jeff, even though he does not have 10 years of experience, also concluded the case needed to go forward, and, as you know, he offered to stay on and try it.”Both Cheney and Wilson are former deputy district attorneys in the 9th Judicial District; Wilson left because he was elected district attorney in the 22nd Judicial District, where Myers is a deputy. Cheney resigned April 15, citing differences with top prosecutor Colleen Truden, and said he was escorted off the premises a few days later.Greer, a 20-year veteran of the public defender’s office, said yesterday that he stands by his statement.Felletter also said he had only three weeks to get ready for trial, which was not enough time to hire an expert witness who could assuage a jury about the witnesses’ allegedly erratic behavior. Greer said Wednesday that the accusers had made inconsistent statements about what allegedly happened and also were in trouble with the police.Myers contended that type of behavior is common in sexual assault cases involving children. “It is a symptom of the psychological damage done to these young victims,” he said.But with three weeks to go until the trial date, there simply wasn’t time to hire an expert, have the person analyze the case, talk to the victims and then reach an opinion, Felletter said. He noted that none of the predecessors who had the case hired an expert.”I don’t, in all good conscience, think that if I went in three weeks before trial and tried to find an expert, had them do all that and then a day or two before trial came to the defense and said, ‘I’m bringing in this expert, here’s the report they did, I want them to testify at trial,’ I think they’d rightly object,” Felletter said. “I don’t think it would be fair to the defense to try to do that at this late date.”Myers closed the e-mail by conceding that he didn’t know what kind of shape the case was in when it was dismissed.”I can say that on Jan. 10, 2005, when I left office, the case, while difficult, was very prosecutable,” he said. “It was not a sure win for the prosecution, but cases that go to trial rarely are.””Sometimes justice requires dismissal of charges and sometimes justice requires the prosecutor to have the backbone to do the right thing and try the difficult case. On Jan. 10, justice demanded a trial on the merits. Jeff Cheney and the other prosecutors who worked on the case prior to Jan. 10 understood that.”


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