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.