Child may testify by video

Attorneys on Friday debated whether statements from an 8-year-old boy can be used as evidence in the trial of a man accused of sexually assaulting him.

During a motions hearing in Routt County District Court, visiting Senior Judge Edwin Ruland listened to three hours of testimony from the boy's parents, police detectives and a human services employee regarding statements the boy made to them about the alleged sexual assaults.

The allegations stem from incidents in June and July 2005. The boy said an employee of his mother's Steamboat Springs business followed him into a work restroom and groped the boy's genitals and chest area.

The man accused of assaulting the boy was arrested in July, several days after the second incident allegedly occurred. The 43-year-old man is charged with sexually assaulting a child younger than 14 and failing to register as a sex offender in Routt County. He also is charged with sexually assaulting a child with a pattern of abuse because he has a previous sexual offender conviction from Washington state.

Deputy District Attorney Tammy Jenson said the boy's statements should be used at trial. She said the six people who testified Friday all said that the boy told them essentially the same information about the assaults.

The boy's mother, father and stepmother testified that the boy began acting strangely the week after the second assault reportedly took place. After the boy talked about the assault, he showed his parents, detectives with the Steamboat Springs Police Department and personnel from the Routt County Department of Human Services where he was touched.

Defense attorney Larry Combs argued that the credibility and reliability of an 8-year-old's statements should be questioned. He asked the judge to order a psychological exam to assess the boy's mental state and ability to testify truthfully.

Jenson objected, saying such an exam was unnecessarily intrusive and would "further victimize the boy."

Combs said such tests are necessary to represent his client effectively.

One of the other motions Combs disputed during the hearing was whether the judge would allow a videotaped interview of the boy to be introduced as evidence to the jury.

Combs said the tape is incomprehensible because it is difficult to make out what the boy is being asked and many of the boy's responses. A police officer and a human services representative conducted the videotaped interview.

Combs said he thought the tape would become a "contest and game" between Jenson and himself to help the jury determine what is happening.

Combs also filed a motion to allow the boy testify via videoconference instead of in person.

Ruland said he would allow Jenson and Combs to send written comments to him in Grand Junction. Ruland said he would make a ruling on the motions sometime next week.

Ruland will not try the case. District Judge Michael O'Hara is scheduled to hear the case when the man's two-day trial begins June 5.

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