By: Lance Benzel September 15, 2016 Updated: September 15, 2016 at 7:08 pm
Operators of a Colorado Springs halfway house agreed to an out-of-court settlement this week to avert a federal lawsuit by two female inmates who were sexually abused by a maintenance supervisor.
Terms of the deal, including the plaintiffs' financial award, weren't disclosed in court records reporting the settlement between the former inmates and owners of Community Alternatives of El Paso (CAE), 2945 E. Las Vegas St.
The women claimed that halfway house operators were negligent in their training and supervision of Joseph Garcia Chapman, 45, of Fountain, who was sentenced to 10 years-to-life on sex offender probation last year after pleading guilty to sexually assaulting both women.
CAE is owned by the New Jersey-based Community Education Centers, a private, nationwide corrections company that contracts with the state-funded El Paso County Community Corrections Board to provide post-conviction supervision and services at its halfway house near the El Paso County jail.
The deal came Thursday at a settlement conference held before federal Judge Michael J. Watanabe, court records show.
Attorney Joshua Tolini declined to discuss the terms or confirm the settlement, and Community Education Centers spokesman Charles Seigel also declined to comment - suggesting the deal likely contained a confidentiality provision.
The Gazette, which generally withholds the identities of sexual assault victims, isn't identifying the plaintiffs.
Their lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Denver in December, three weeks after Chapman accepted a guilty plea admitting that he subjected the women to groping, licking and other forced touching when he was supposed to be supervising them.
Plaintiff's attorneys said CAE improperly granted Chapman the power to hand out demerits for misconduct, a source of leverage over the women, who say they were fearful of being sent back to prison if they reported him.
Alternatively, by helping Chapman with maintenance duties, the attorneys said, inmates could work off demerits given for rule violations and earn "merits" that could be applied toward extended day passes to leave the facility without supervision for job searches.
Chapman and CAE employees Larry Bottoms, Charity Dorsch and "FNU" - first name unknown - Bannister were among the defendants. CEC and its chief executive officer, James Hyman, were also named as defendants.
Seigel, the Community Education Centers spokesman, previously told The Gazette that the local facility reported Chapman to the police upon learning of the allegations against him and moved swiftly to fire him. An internal review found no cause to alter procedures at the halfway house, he said.
Chapman was sentenced in November to 10 years to life on sex offender intensive supervised probation as part of a plea bargain that tossed several counts against him.
Colorado Springs police started an investigation in January 2014 after one of the women confided details of the abuse to a pastor. The pastor in turn notified CAE supervisors, who called police.
During his first interrogation, Chapman admitted both encounters, using the term "horsing around" to describe the touching, according to a 75-page police report obtained by The Gazette. Multiple women told police he had a habit of making lewd comments while supervising them, the report says.
A former sergeant in a cavalry unit at Fort Carson, Chapman told police he'd been having marital trouble and that his father had recently died.
Court records show Chapman was arrested Sept. 8 in Colorado Springs on suspicion of weapon possession by a previous offender, a felony. He is free on $1,000 bond awaiting a Sept. 22 court appearance.
Contact lance Benzel: 636-0366
By: Lance Benzel January 22, 2016 Updated: January 22, 2016 at 12:30 pm
A shackled Bruce Nozolino walked into a Colorado Springs courtroom with a smile plastered on his face, and he left laughing.
But as in the past, he lost his day in court.
Nozolino, 54, is among the most notorious criminals in recent El Paso County history, convicted in April 2014 in a decade-long series of sniper attacks targeting players in his acrimonious divorce.
A jury found that the former Lockheed Martin software engineer shot into the home of El Paso County's chief judge Gilbert Martinez in 2001, narrowly missing his head; wounded a prominent divorce lawyer in the eye in 2002 with a shot delivered into his second-floor legal office; and lay in wait on a winter day in 2008 before killing a man who had an affair with Nozolino's then-wife in the late 1990s.
His court appearance on Friday revolved around a related 2012 witness intimidation conviction in which Nozolino was found guilty of telling witnesses not to participate a 2010 grand jury investigation focusing on the crimes.
His attorney, Joshua Tolini, argued that Nozolino's 10-year sentence should be reduced in light of a finding by the Colorado Court of Appeals that threw out two of the four counts.
After brief arguments, Senior Judge Jon Kolomitz denied the motion, siding with prosecutor Jeffrey Lindsey, who said Nozolino's effort to disrupt the grand jury proceedings "struck at the heart" of the criminal justice system and deserved a stiff penalty.
The judge also said the defense failed to make a case that a sentencing judge overlooked mitigating evidence, finding that none was offered.
Nozolino is being held at the Limon Correctional Facility on a sentence of life without parole, plus 288 years.
His witness intimidation sentence may appear insignificant by comparison, but prosecutors say they want to keep him behind bars should his murder case come back on appeal.
That effort suffered a setback in March 2014, after the state appeals court struck down separate perjury convictions against him, shaving 10 years from his sentence.
The Appeals Court has yet to rule on the murder convictions, which a jury handed up after a two-month trial featuring more than 100 witnesses.
Nozolino's name has twice come up during proceedings for El Paso County's latest high-profile defendant, Planned Parenthood shooting suspect Robert Lewis Dear Jr.
Each time, prosecutors told Judge Martinez, who is presiding over the Dear case, that his involvement as a victim in the Nozolino case could be construed as a conflict of interest. Dear is represented in part by public defender Rose Roy, who represented Nozolino for a time.
Martinez remains assigned to the Dear prosecution.
By: Kassondra Cloos February 18, 2015 and Updated: Febuary 19, 2015 at 3:22 pm
A defense strategy exists in Marcus Smith pleading not guilty by means of insanity to a first-degree murder charge, his attorney said in court on Wednesday. But the 24-year-old man refuses to cooperate with his lawyers.
Defense attorney Josh Tolini told 4th Judicial District Judge Barbara Hughes during a hearing Wednesday that Smith has threatened to hurt and even kill him, and that Smith refuses to speak with Tolini.
Smith, of Colorado Springs, is accused of killing 87-year-old Katherine "Kit" Grazioli in Colorado Springs in November 2011. Police say he broke into her gated community, strangled her in her bedroom and set her body ablaze at the Captain Jack's trailhead on Gold Camp Road.
Tolini and Cindy Hyatt, and district attorneys Michael Fisher and Margaret Vellar debated in Wednesday's hearing whether some types of evidence would be permissible and if the prosecution should be required to provide certain documents for the defense.
Smith was present in court wearing a spit guard for roughly the first 30 minutes of his hearing before Hughes removed him, as she has many times in the past.
He mumbled and swore throughout much of the hearing, physically restrained by two deputies with two others standing guard, and ignored Hughes' many warnings to be quiet. He shouted that he "ain't going to trial" and "is going home," that he isn't an inmate, he is a slave. He tried to get Hughes' attention by calling her "Barbie." When Hughes asked him to stop talking because he was making the court reporter's job difficult, he insisted that he needed his own court reporter.
Hughes ordered him removed when he said she was "breaking my (his) balls."
Tolini told Hughes at the end of the hearing that Smith has serious mental health concerns that warrant a not guilty by means of insanity plea, but that Smith won't let his attorneys - his third pair of lawyers - enter the plea on his behalf. He threatens Tolini when the attorney tries to talk to him, Tolini said, and although he is more willing to speak with Hyatt, he makes inappropriate sexual comments to her.
Tolini said his client has called his paralegal and claimed she works for Smith and needs her to shoot Tolini.
"That defense counsel is being put in a difficult position is an understatement in this case," Tolini told the judge.
A trial date for Smith has been set for April 6, but at least two other trial dates have been postponed in recent years. Tolini said his client has the constitutional right to be present in front of the jury for his trial, but requested Smith be forcibly medicated when that time comes.
Contact Kassondra Cloos: 636-0362
Twitter: @Kassondra Cloos
By: Lance Benzel of The Gazette in Colorado Springs April 17, 2012
The trial of a former Colorado Springs police officer accused of molesting 22 middle school boys drew to a chaotic finish Tuesday as a jury announced it was unable to reach verdicts on most of the charges against him.
Of the 207 felony counts charged, Carrier was convicted of 21 child-pornography counts and acquitted of 36 sex-related counts.
The mixed verdict left 150 counts on which the eight-woman, four-man jury was unable to agree — meaning Carrier wasn’t convicted of any touching or sex-related charges. Prosecutors intend to re-try him, though 4th Judicial District Dan May wouldn’t say if his office will pursue all of the unresolved counts.
“Right now, we have more questions than answers,” May said after privately addressing tearful parents when the proceedings concluded.
Carrier, 31, was taken into custody after the verdicts were read — leading one man to briefly applaud, defying a judge’s order against outbursts in court. Carrier will remain jailed pending a May 1 hearing to set a new trial date.
According to the jury forewoman, two jurors were unable to vote “guilty” on any of the sexual assault counts, citing a lack of proof. She said the hold-outs stuck to their positions through six days of fractious deliberations.
“We just had one person who refused to believe anything,” she said. “It was the most emotional six weeks I’ve ever had.” Other jurors left the courthouse without speaking with reporters. Carrier’s parents and supporters declined to comment, and many of the accusers’ parents also declined to answer questions.
Carrier’s attorneys pledged to fight the remaining counts, and asked the community to respect the jury’s findings.
“We remain steadfast that we are going to defend Mr. Carrier against these charges,” said lead defense attorney Christopher Decker of Denver.
Co-counsel Joshua Tolini of Colorado Springs said of Carrier’s reaction: “He was very disappointed by the guilty counts, but his spirit remains up and he’s willing to keep this fight going on.”
Carrier, who dropped his head after hearing the first “not guilty” verdict, embraced his parents and grandmother before he was led from the courtroom in handcuffs.
Carrier served as a Colorado Springs police officer for seven years and resigned in July after allegations surfaced.
Defense attorneys defended Carrier’s touching of student wrestlers at Horace Mann Middle School, saying it was his job as a volunteer wrestling coach to rule out dangerous skin diseases — a potential legal exemption to the sexual assault charges against him. They denied the more sexually graphic allegations of several other boys, suggesting they were encouraged to lie in pursuit of a payout in court. Two boys alleged that Carrier tried to masturbate them, and another said Carrier inserted a finger into his rectum while checking him for a possible appendicitis.
Attorneys in Colorado Springs plan to sue on behalf of at least 18 of the 22 families. The not-guilty verdicts are unlikely to affect their plans to sue Colorado Springs School District 11, the Colorado Springs Police Department and others they accuse of allowing abuse to continue.
Fourth Judicial District Judge David A. Gilbert’s decision to revoke Carrier’s $500,000 bond came after several parents addressed the court, among them a father who said his son lived in fear of the former officer.
A tearful mother pleaded: “Our kids need to see some kind of justice right now.”
The jury initially voted to convict Carrier on one of the touching-related counts, but in a twist, a woman changed her mind as the jury was being polled by the judge — stunning even veteran attorneys.
The unlawful sexual contact charge ended up getting added to the list of unresolved counts.
Earlier in the trial, another woman was booted from the jury for complaining on Facebook that testimony was “boring.”
The jury began deliberating April 10. Signs of deadlock emerged Friday when a juror asked what to do “if a juror says, ‘I quit.’” On Monday, the panel indicated it was deadlocked on some counts, leading Judge Gilbert to again order the jury to try to work out a unanimous verdict, leading to Tuesday’s split decision.
Decker said the juror’s about-face in the jury box Tuesday suggested she felt intimidated into siding with other jurors.
“We found out today one juror was convinced to go along and that was not her verdict.”
Gazette reporters Andy Wineke and Barrett Tryon contributed to this story.