A senior Arapahoe District Court judge has ruled that criminal cases against two Cherry Creek School District employees arising from a grand jury indictment charging them with failure to report child abuse should be dismissed. The judge found the statute of limitations had run out on the offenses prior to the indictment.
The Arapahoe County Court trial judge had ruled in response to a defense motion seeking dismissal that the crime of failure to report child abuse is a “continuing offense,” and that the statute of limitations does not run until the crime is discovered or the abuse is finally reported.
Senior Judge Schapanski’s decision overruled the trial court.
“This ruling highlights the tremendous risk of danger to our children created by an extremely weak law. 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. In a society that claims to want to protect the most vulnerable among us, how does that make any sense?” said District Attorney George Brauchler. “I urge the Attorney General to appeal this decision, and I urge the legislature to address this issue going forward. I urge 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.”
The grand jury on Jan. 4, 2018, indicted Adrienne MacIntosh, who was a dean at Prairie Middle School; and David Gonzales, who was principal of the school. Each was indicted on one count of knowingly and/or willfully failing to report information concerning the abuse of a child in violation of CRS 19-3-304, a Class 3 misdemeanor. The statute of limitations is 18 months.
The grand jury found that in April 2013 a student at Prairie Middle School disclosed to another student that she had what she called a sexual relationship with one of her teachers, Brian Vasquez. The student who received the information told a school administrator. The victim was disciplined and law enforcement and social services were not notified, the grand jury said.
In August 2017, a separate investigation by law enforcement into Brian Vasquez led to him admitting to the 2013 sex assault on the student, along with incidences involving other students that took place later. In September 2018, Vasquez was sentenced to 40 years to life in prison.