Pitkin County District Judge Chris Seldin has set Jan. 10 as the date for a preliminary hearing involving a 17-year-old male who faces sexual-assault charges in three separate cases.
The Woody Creek resident was present for a status hearing in Seldin’s courtroom on Monday, wearing street clothes and shackled at the ankles. In two cases that allegedly occurred during the summer — involving two teenage female victims — Deputy District Attorney Don Nottingham has charged the suspect as an adult. A third case, involving an incident that was said to have occurred two years ago and a victim who was 5 years old at the time, remains in juvenile court.
An ongoing investigation of the sexual assaults involving multiple agencies, including the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office and the Aspen Police Department, may be winding down, Seldin suggested Monday. The judge said that he’s looking to unseal information that has been kept from public release in the two district-court cases but added that he’s willing to provide law enforcement with “a little more time.” He asked whether the investigation was still active.
Following the hearing, Nottingham said he would meet with sheriff’s office and police department personnel on Tuesday to discuss where the investigation is heading and whether unsealing the records would compromise any of the cases. He said more charges could be forthcoming in the near future.
“Obviously these are very serious allegations and it’s something that all of our law-enforcement agencies take very seriously,” Nottingham said.
The Aspen Daily News is not reporting the 17-year-old’s name pending a judicial decision on the issue of “reverse transfer” — a request by the teen’s defense counsel to move the two adult district-court cases back to juvenile court. In addition to the preliminary hearing, the “reverse transfer” matter will be discussed on Jan. 10, along with bail. The 17-year-old is being held in a Grand Junction juvenile detention facility under two separate cash-only bonds of $100,000 each.
The 17-year-old had been represented by Snowmass Village attorney Arnold Mordkin, Aspen’s former felony prosecutor. During Monday’s hearing, a new counselor stepped in, M. Trent Trani of Denver. Reached by phone, Mordkin had no comment on the changeover. Trani expressed to Seldin on Monday that he had just been hired and needed time to familiarize himself with the cases.
Most details surrounding the accusations have yet to come to light. Arrest-warrant information in the juvenile case is under seal, as is the case for which the 17-year-old and another man, Keegan Callahan, 20, also of Woody Creek, were initially arrested on Oct. 9. The 16-year-old victim in that case, an Aspen High School student, has told part of her story publicly using a social media platform.
In that case, both Callahan and the 17-year-old face 13 felony counts each, nine of which directly concern sexual assault. An official charging document filed by the district attorney’s office, which was unsealed, suggests that the incident involved physical force such as choking. It also states that the incident occurred “between and including” July 28-29.
That allegation resulted in local authorities launching a wider probe into other possible sexual assaults involving the pair. On Friday afternoon, the 17-year-old and Callahan were charged with sexual assault in two separate cases involving another teenage victim. The arrest affidavit for the younger suspect was made available to the public.
In a report written by Bruce Benjamin, a longtime investigator of juvenile cases for the sheriff’s office, he states that he received information from a school resource officer at Aspen High School on Oct. 11. The officer told Benjamin that a student reported to him and a counselor that she had been sexually assaulted twice. She named Callahan in relation to an incident at the Aspen Recreation Center and the 17-year-old with regard to an incident at his Woody Creek residence.
Benjamin met the teenage girl and her mother at River Bridge Regional Center in Glenwood Springs on Oct. 15. A River Bridge staff member conducted a forensic interview, which Benjamin observed in a nearby room. The arrest affidavit released Friday only includes details about the alleged Woody Creek incident, said to have occurred sometime between July 20 and July 30.
The girl, according to the affidavit, said that she was invited by the 17-year-old and Callahan to go dirt-biking. She said she was picked up by both of them at the Brush Creek Intercept Lot and the three of them first went to the 17-year-old’s home.
There, the three of them smoked marijuana in the 17-year-old’s bedroom. The 17-year-old texted her, asking “whether she wanted to have a threesome” and she replied no. Soon after, the affidavit states, the 17-year-old told the girl to take her clothes off “or he would choke her.” He then proceeded to choke her, causing her to gasp for air, and soon after, he raped her, the affidavit says, quoting her testimony at River Bridge.
At one point, the 17-year-old allegedly asked Keegan to join in, but he sat nearby, “apparently surfing on his phone,” according to the girl’s account of the incident.
During the interview at River Bridge, the alleged victim reportedly said that she wanted to put the whole thing out of her mind. “I’m trying to do what I can to get my mind off of it. I’m shutting down. I feel scared if I’m alone. I heard they were in jail so I decided to make the report,” Benjamin quotes her as saying.
Callahan, who also is being held under $100,000 bond, was represented at a recent hearing by Denver attorney Abraham Hutt. His preliminary hearing was set for Nov. 14.