Updated: October 26, 2012 at 12:00 am
A jury Friday returned guilty verdicts on most counts against a former Colorado Springs police officer accused of molesting young boys — convicting him of sexually assaulting 19 of his 21 accusers.
Convicted of more than 30 counts of sexual assault on a child, Joshua Carrier is virtually assured of spending the rest of his life in prison under the state’s tough but complex sentencing laws for sex offenses.
“He’s looking at a long, long time,” said lead prosecutor Amy Fitch, who added that by her analysis, Carrier will be sentenced to at least 72 years.
Fourth Judicial District Judge David A. Gilbert scheduled sentencing for 9 a.m. Feb. 22.
Because many of Carrier’s convictions carry “indeterminate” sentences under the law, he can be held beyond his maximum sentence until prison officials deem he is rehabilitated.
The five-woman, seven-man jury returned its verdicts after roughly 16 hours of deliberation over three days.
Carrier, 31, was on trial for the second time after an earlier jury failed to reach unanimous verdicts on most counts in April. The former officer buried his face in his hands and shook his head when the first of the “guilty” verdicts was announced to a packed courtroom — a moment of excruciating tension for parents in the gallery.
After a reading that took more than a half-hour to complete, victims’ relatives spilled into the hallway outside and embraced in tearful celebrations.
One woman set off in a hurry after announcing she would deliver the news to her son in person. A father whose son’s allegations ended in a split verdict said: “It doesn’t matter to me. I’m just happy that we got him when we did. No telling where he would have taken it if we hadn’t caught him.”
Fitch, who also prosecuted Carrier at his first trial, said she didn’t second-guess her decision to press ahead with all victims rather than pare the case down to the victims with the strongest testimony.
“A lot of it comes down to what is the right thing to do,” Fitch said. “I believed every one of these victims, and I still do.”
Said prosecutor Jennifer Viehman: “I’m just happy for the children.”
In meetings before the second trial began, some children broke down in tears over having to testify again, Fitch said. One went so far as to run away from home, though he was found a few hours later.
“They know that the person who did this to them is going to pay for it,” she said.
Carrier was accused of inappropriately touching the children while volunteering in a variety of roles at Horace Mann Middle School, including as a wrestling coach. The jury convicted him of all counts related to skin-checks of student wrestlers, who said Carrier fondled their genitals under the guise he was checking for diseases.
The jury acquitted him of sexual assault charges related to three drug strip-searches and checks of two student athletes who were injured during practice or competition. But some of those children were also on the wrestling team and had their genitals touched on other occasions.
Judge Gilbert dismissed counts involving a 22nd boy earlier in the trial, in part because of changing testimony.
Carrier also was convicted of inserting a finger into a boy’s rectum despite a heavy emphasis by the defense on the boy’s developmental disability.
The defense argued that Carrier had the legitimate but mistaken belief his touching of student wrestlers was legitimate.
Attorneys Christopher Decker and Joshua Tolini highlighted changing testimony in trying to make the case the boys’ allegations were tainted by hysterical parents, embarrassed police investigators and the lure of civil suits.
“It’s been a long and difficult battle — series of battles — but we are forced to accept the jury’s verdict,” Decker said after confirming plans to appeal. He said he needed to do further research to determine what sentence Carrier will face but agreed with prosecutors that “the numbers will be very, very high.”
At least 16 families have officially threatened to sue, and 11 families are included in a civil action that recently resulted in a $9.4 million proposed settlement between victims and Colorado Springs School District 11 and the city of Colorado Springs.
Their attorney, Ann P. Kaufman, called the verdicts the start of a long road ahead for the children, who she said were left devastated by Carrier.
“What he did to those children is beyond redemption,” Kaufman said. “It wreaked havoc on these children’s lives. You can’t take it back. It’s carnage. It’s horrific damage.”
The awards, once final, will be placed in trusts and overseen by conservators to ensure the money is spent on counseling and other medical needs. Several parents testified the money will be released when their children reach 21.
One juror declined to comment on his way out of the courthouse. Other jurors apparently left through a restricted hallway, avoiding a scrum of reporters awaiting them with cameras outside the elevators.
Prosecutors called more than 120 witnesses and submitted more than 200 exhibits during the course of 20 days of testimony. Among the evidence at Carrier’s second trial was a recently discovered video that Fitch said erased all doubt that Carrier’s touching was for sexual gratification rather than medical purposes.
The video showed close-up shots of Carrier rubbing, stroking and pulling on a boy’s penis after he was made to strip.
The victim was among more than a half-dozen boys who were secretly videotaped by Carrier during skin-checks in his office.
Reporter R. Scott Rappold contributed to this report.
THE CARRIER CASE
Arrested: Carrier was arrested May 11, 2011, on suspicion of purchasing child pornography after Colorado Springs police were alerted by Air Force investigators in March 2011 that someone with Carrier’s name tried to buy child pornography in 2007. About a week later, he was re-arrested on charges of sexually assaulting several children.
Resignation: He was suspended from the Colorado Springs Police Department on May 24, 2011, and resigned June 30, 2011.
Plea: Carrier pleaded not guilty to all charges on Oct. 25, 2011.
First trial: Began March 8 with jury selection; opening arguments were March 16, and closing arguments were April 10, when the jury began deliberations. Problems arose on April 13, when jurors asked “What do we do if a juror says, ‘I quit?’” After a weekend break, deliberations continued until April 17, when the jury announced it was deadlocked on some counts.
Conclusion: Convicted of 21 child pornography counts, acquitted of a mix of 36 other counts; jury couldn’t agree on about 150 touching-related counts – leaving the bulk of the case to be re-tried.
Second trial: Sept. 17 to Oct. 26, including more than a week of jury selection. Opening arguments were Sept. 25 and closing arguments were Oct. 23, when the jury began deliberations.
Conclusion: Convicted Oct. 26 of 123 out of 148 counts, including more than 30 counts of sexual assault; acquitted of seven counts of sexual assault; convicted of various counts of pattern of abuse, sexual assault by one in a position of trust, unlawful sexual contact, child enticement and sexual exploitation of children.
Sentencing: Set for 9 a.m. Feb. 22.