ARAPAHOE COUNTY–Differing interpretations of when the statute of limitations clock actually started has led to the dismissal of a criminal case against two Cherry Creek School District employees, and led District Attorney George Brauchler to call for changes to Colorado’s mandatory reporting law.
On Jan. 4 an Arapahoe County grand jury indicted Prairie Middle School dean Adrienne Macintosh and principal David Gonzales on misdemeanor charges of willfully failing to report sexual abuse of a child at the school.
The grand jury found that in April 2013 a student at the school disclosed to another student that she had a sexual relationship with her teacher, Brian Vasquez. The second student reported it to a school administrator. Rather than reporting the incident, the student was disciplined by the school and neither law enforcement nor social services were notified as required by law.
An August 2017 law enforcement investigation resulted in Vasquez admitting to the 2013 sex assault as well as other incidences involving other students after that. Vasquez was sentenced to 40 years to life in prison in September 2018.
During the criminal trial of Macintosh and Gonzales, Arapahoe District Court senior judge Stephen J. Schapanski overruled the trial court’s determination that failing to report sex abuse of students was a “continuing offense” that would delay the start of the 18-month statute of limitations clock until the abuse is reported or the crime is discovered.
Schapanski found that the statute of limitations had run out on the crimes before the indictment was handed down by the grand jury and that the case against Macintosh and Gonzales must be dismissed.
Arapahoe County’s District Attorney, George Brauchler, said in a press release, “This ruling and the inadequacy of the mandatory reporter law means that a teacher, a therapist, a member of the clergy, or many others who know about the abuse of our children — and is required by law to report such abuse to the authorities — could escape responsibility for choosing to protect the abuser, instead of our children, if they just keep a secret for as little as 18 months.”
Brauchler urged Attorney General Phil Weiser to appeal the decision and also urged the legislature “to choose our children over the teachers union, the church and any other special interest group that doesn’t put protecting our kids over their own membership.”