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Carrier defense uses testimony to question investigation

October 16, 2012

One of Joshua Carrier’s alleged victims on Monday testified that he doesn’t believe an officer’s touching of his genitals rose to the level of sexual assault.

The boy, now 15, repeatedly called the exams “weird” but said under cross-examination he doesn’t feel he was assaulted.

He testified that Carrier examined his genitals between four and six times at Horace Mann Middle School during the 2010-2011 school year, mostly to check for skin lesions before wrestling meets.

Defense attorneys used the boy’s ambivalence to raise questions about Colorado Springs police investigators’ approach to reluctant victims. They argue that children’s perceptions were influenced by parents and police.

Prosecutors emphasized testimony that Carrier, 31, won the boy’s loyalty after first threatening him with serious legal trouble.

Carrier, who resigned in June 2011, a month after his arrest, has pleaded not guilty to nearly 150 counts. Testimony began Sept. 25 and is expected to conclude this month. If convicted, he faces the possibility of life in prison.

An earlier trial on the same charges ended in April, when a jury was unable to return verdicts on the bulk of the case.

The boy took the stand after his mother described what she called a “mind-boggling” encounter in which Carrier allegedly grilled her son over accusations that he flashed a classmate at a bus stop.

Summoned to a February 2011 meeting at Mann Middle School, the woman said Carrier warned of dire consequences — saying the boy could end up a registered sex offender — before steering the topic to the boy’s sexuality.

Carrier, she said, asked her son to disclose how often he gets erections, whether he masturbates, what thoughts make him sexually aroused, and whether he is attracted to boys or girls.  

While trying to figure out how her son may have flashed the boy, Carrier asked how he positions his genitals in his pants if he becomes aroused, she said.

“They were questions that were just mind-blowing for a parent to hear,” said the woman, who testified that she and her son were fearful of legal consequences. “At the time, there was just so much to process, I just didn’t feel like I could speak.”

But Carrier, who raised the possibility of filing sex charges, ultimately agreed to cap charges at misdemeanor harassment so that her son would be eligible for Teen Court, a diversion program for young offenders.

While she left stunned over the officer’s questions, her son was just grateful, she said.
“He was thanking God that he wouldn’t have to be a registered sex offender,” the boy’s mother said. “He just felt like he had been saved.”

During a May 2011 interview with police, a Colorado Springs police interviewer told the boy Carrier had misled him about the seriousness of the offense and appeared to be engaging in “grooming,” the gradual process by which sex offenders earn the trust of children and gain their compliance.

“My concern is he made you feel that he was saving you,” said Kelly Schiffelbein, who acknowledged under cross-examination that she had gone “overboard” in her statements to the boy.

Schiffelbein, who has been criticized by defense attorneys for similar statements to other boys, said she wanted the boy to know so it wouldn’t happen again.

Earlier in the trial, prosecutor Amy Fitch responded to similar questions from the defense by eliciting testimony that a jury, not the boys, must determine whether the touching was criminal.

To prove sexual assault, the prosecution must establish that touching was for sexual gratification rather than legitimate medical purposes, as claimed by the defense.

The boy’s mother said her son was forced to change schools as a result of Carrier’s intervention.

Carrier, a volunteer at the time, told her he was forced to investigate because the classmate’s mother approached him at a sporting event and told him her son was flashed. The boy was confronted a month after the episode.

The woman said her son’s experience at Mann caused such a disruption in the family’s lives that she decided to leave Colorado Springs.

The family was planning the move when police requested an interview with the boy.
The woman, a former educator, said she hasn’t sued because she is worried that a payout would take money from teachers and police officers.

Testimony continues at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday.

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