District attorney won’t pursue additional charges against juveniles accused of animal cruelty | SkyHiNews.com

District attorney won’t pursue additional charges against juveniles accused of animal cruelty

Kremmling Police Chief investigation leads to concerns of double jeopardy, lack of evidence

Three juveniles who allegedly killed a feral cat will not face additional criminal charges after the investigation by Kremmling Police Chief Jamie Lucas was called into question.

On Monday, the 14th Judicial District Attorney’s Office outlined several concerns the office has with trying to prosecute the juveniles. 

The DA’s most significant concern was Lucas already charged the juveniles with a municipal ordinance violation and fined them $500 each with the promise no other consequences would come of the investigation. In response, two of the juveniles spoke to Lucas and paid the fines.

“In the case of two of the juveniles, it is clear they only chose to waive their constitutional rights and make certain admissions because of this ‘official’ promise,” District Attorney Matt Karzen wrote in a news release. “Under these circumstances, the admissibility of their statements in any further prosecution is in serious doubt.”

Aside from potential legal and constitutional problems with further prosecution, Karzen noted that it would “offend basic notions of fairness to initiate state level proceedings against these juveniles after a law enforcement officer promised them that would not happen if they waived several important constitutional rights, and as a result, they waived those rights.”

The DA also noted that further prosecution would be hindered by a lack of evidence or concerns about the evidence.

“None of the interviews were recorded, no narrative reports about the investigation were written, and there was no attempt to interview other possible witnesses or conduct any forensic examinations for evidence,” Karzen said.

Lucas originally cited the juveniles into the Kremmling Municipal Court, despite the alleged offense occurring outside town limits and beyond the jurisdiction of the municipal court.

After the Grand County Sheriff’s Office brought its concerns about the jurisdiction to Lucas, he amended the location of the offense on the citations he issued.

The sheriff’s office requested the DA look into Lucas’ handling of the case, and the DA’s office asked the Fraser Winter Park Police Department to conduct the investigation, which has led to criminal charges against Lucas for alleged official misconduct, oppression and false reporting.

Karzen said that had the juveniles been cited into Grand County Court for animal cruelty, his office would not have pushed for felony charges but to have the juveniles enter Grand County’s Juvenile Diversion Program, which “provides a balance of accountability and rehabilitation without formal court involvement.”

Karzen added that the juveniles who paid the $500 fines could be entitled to refunds because they were charged unlawfully, but they would likely have to initiate court proceedings for that to happen.

The third juvenile was also cited with disturbing the peace, but did not pay the $500 fine and was scheduled to appear in Kremmling Municipal Court on Jan. 8. According to the Kremmling Municipal Court docket, the juvenile did not appear and the case was continued to Feb. 12.

Karzen said he believes the court will have to dismiss that charge because it is outside the court’s jurisdiction.

Kremmling Municipal Court Judge Ron Carlson previously told the Sky-Hi News that if he received a summons with an address listed outside the court’s jurisdiction, he would not be able to prosecute the case.

“I would probably have to dismiss it,” Carlson said. “(Jurisdiction) doesn’t mean a person’s residence, but it means where the event happened. You always have to establish venue and jurisdiction.”

Timeline of Events

Dec. 4 – Grand County Sheriff’s Office takes over the investigation into an alleged case of animal abuse involving three juveniles.

Dec. 13 – Fraser Winter Park Police Chief Glen Trainor confirms his department is investigating Kremmling Police Chief Jamie Lucas for potential misconduct.

Dec. 20 – The town of Kremmling places Lucas on paid administrative leave after receiving a letter from the 14th Judicial District Attorney’s Office that Lucas had been Brady listed.

Jan. 2 – The DA’s office reviewed the Fraser Winter Park Police Department’s investigation after it was completed in December.

Jan. 22 – In response to the allegations of misconduct, Lucas takes a polygraph and requests a special prosecutor. The DA refutes Lucas’ claims.

Jan. 31 – The DA charges Lucas with multiple counts of official misconduct, false reporting and official oppression.

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