March 19, 2012
A jury on Monday watched footage of former Colorado Springs police officer Joshua Carrier examining several boys in his school office – some of whom he touched on the genitals.
The nature of the exams – whether routine or exploitative – goes to the heart of shocking allegations against the decorated former officer.
Carrier, 31, faces the potential of life in prison on allegations he fondled 22 children during the 2010-2011 school year at Horace Mann Middle School in Colorado Springs. Defense attorneys say the exams were part of Carrier's responsibility as a volunteer wrestling coach to weigh each wrestler before a competition and to make sure none had communicable skin diseases, such as ringworm.
Prosecutors on Tuesday attacked that notion by playing taped audio calls in which Carrier reacts in shock when asked if he touched genitals.
"Never," Carrier said in a phone call taped by police.
Although students routinely strip for wrestling exams, school policies bar physical touching, authorities say.
The videos were assembled from more than 42,000 deleted images recovered from Carrier's private laptop and strung together with video software. Police seized the computer and other suspicious material after receiving a tip from another agency that Carrier had in the past subscribed to child porn websites.
Police say they identified six boys who were made to strip. Detectives never learned the identities of some other children in the videos, because their faces aren't visible, Colorado Springs police detective Samantha Lembergs testified.
Several of the unidentified boys also had their genitals fondled, she said.
Defense attorneys Christopher Decker and Joshua Tolini questioned police about the thoroughness of their investigation – asking why, for example, detectives didn't confront one of the boys who told police that Carrier touched his "junk" when the video shows no such physical contact with the child.
Carrier clearly looks into a camera embedded in his laptop during the exams. He also appears to be typing, though Lembergs said police never learned what – leading Decker to suggest it was a wrestling team spreadsheet.
The jury also heard a series of taped phone calls between Carrier and Nicholas Graham, then a security officer at Mann.
In the calls, police listened in as Graham attempts to get details from Carrier about the exams – and instead gets a mix of reassurances and angry denials.
"You're gonna have people coming out of the woodwork right now, just because of what's going on," said Carrier, claiming to Graham that he had parents' permission to do the skin-checks and weigh-ins.
Carrier called the students' claims part of a "witch hunt".
The students' allegations of being sexually abused by Carrier emerged one day after police announced his May 11 arrest on suspicion of possessing child pornography.
"The bottom line is, when I'm found not-guilty of this, I'm not going to be able to work in Colorado Springs," he said on tape.
When Graham called back a day later, Graham was crying – or pretending to. Graham's tears faded fast as he again pushed for details, this time more aggressively. Carrier quickly referred him to his attorney.
Graham worked with Carrier at the then-officer's side businesses, including a commercial haunted house in the Pikes Peak region and a DJing business, Lembergs said. After Carrier's arrest, Graham was transferred to a new school
Police witnesses also testified about DVDs and images found among Carrier's belongings, including known child pornography.
The defense questioned detectives over whether Carrier or another computer user might have been redirected to an illicit website while surfing legal pornography. They also suggested police wrongly labeled some of the DVDs as illegal – asking police about an advisory on one so-called nudist video that claimed the images were innocent and offered this proviso: "Nude is not lewd."
The video showed girls ages 10 to 14 in a nude beauty pageant, police said.
Police detective Adam Romine drew several laughs from the jury while reacting skeptically to the defense's questions.
Romine noted that "Puberty Education for Boys and Girls" depicted children having sex.
"It involves juveniles," he said. "To me, that's kind of a red flag."
Even if Carrier mistakenly came into possession of child pornography, he had a legal duty as an officer to report the material to his chain-of-command, police say.
Carrier is a former school-resource officer who volunteered nearly 1,000 hours of his own time after being switched back to patrol.
He resigned in June as police were in the process of having him fired.
Testimony is expected to continue at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday.