ARAPAHOE COUNTY, Colo. — A district court judge in Arapahoe County on Wednesday ordered that the criminal charges brought by a grand jury against two Cherry Creek School District employees should be dismissed over failing to report child abuse as the statute of limitations had run out, according to the 18th Judicial District Attorney's Office.
Previously, an Arapahoe County judge had ruled against the defense in the case that the statute of limitations couldn't run out on child abuse charges, as failing to report child abuse was a "continuing offense. Senior Judge Stephen Schapanski disagreed, and he overruled the trial court. He's ordered the criminal court to drop the charges.
District Attorney George Brauchler announced Schapanski's decision and said he hopes the state's Attorney General appeals the decision.
"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... could escape responsibility for choosing to protect the abuser... if they just keep a secret for as little as 18 months," Brauchler said in a news release.
When asked whether he planned to appeal the decision, Attorney General Phil Weiser released this statement: "There is no crime more heinous than sex crimes against a child. As Attorney General, I will do all I can to keep children and communities safe. In this case, we are duty bound to represent the Colorado judicial system and we cannot comment further until we've conferred with them."
The child abuse case the pair of school employees were facing charges over was resolved in court in September 2018 after a former middle school teacher for the Cherry Creek School District was sentenced to at least 40 years in prison after admitting to sexually abusing students.
Brian Vasquez, 35, pleaded guilty in July 2018 to three counts of sexual assault on a child, one count of sexual exploitation of a child, one count of attempted sexual exploitation of a child and one count of internet sexual exploitation of a child.
He was a teacher at Prairie Middle School and was arrested in August 2017.
The lawyer for Vasquez's victims said that two of them were still working on their mental health and hoped to return to school soon. One is about to graduate from high school and two others were about to enter college as of September 2018.
Two school administrators were charged in connection to the incidents: Adrienne MacIntosh -- a dean at the school during Vasquez's abuse -- and David Gonzalez -- the school's principal. Gonzalez and MacIntosh are the administrators whose charges have been ordered to be dismissed by the district court judge.
The pair was first indicted in January 2018, both on one count each of knowingly and/or willfully failing to report information concerning the abuse of a child. The statute of limitation for that crime is 18 months.
The grand jury found that as far back as 2013, a student at Prairie Middle told another student about having a sexual relationship with one of the teachers -- Vasquez. According to the grand jury, the student who the victim told then informed an administrator at the school.
Instead of notifying law enforcement and social services, the student was disciplined, according to the grand jury that charged MacIntosh and Gonzalez.
MacIntosh took it upon herself to investigate the incident - which is against school policy and state law, according to the indictment against her. She even told Vasquez about the investigation, who then went to one of his victims and scolded her -- telling her of the terrible effects her actions could have on his career and family, according to the indictment.
The district agreed to pay an $11.5 million settlement to Vasquez's victims in September 2018. Cherry Creek Schools released a statement at the time that admitted no amount of money would fix the terrible things that happened.
At the same time, the district sent a letter home to parents to assure them administrators had created a task force to review practices and procedures in the wake of what happened with Vasquez and the administrators.
When MacIntosh, in the course of her illegal investigation, met with the victim, the grand jury indictment alleges she warned her of the effects such an accusation could have on Vasquez's life. When the victim was sent to the principal's office, Gonzalez reportedly told her the same thing, according to the indictment.
She was then subjected to a disciplinary proceeding in front of her parents, Vasquez (her abuser), a counselor, MacIntosh and Gonzalez. At this time, the indictment reads, she denied her original admission again and was suspended for making up a false story about Vasquez.
At no point was law enforcement notified, the indictment against MacIntoch and Gonzalez says.
After the Wednesday decision ordering the charges against MacIntosh and Gonzalez dismissed, Brauchler said in a press release he hoped the state legislature would change the law.
"I urge the legislature to choose our children over the teacher's union, the church and any other special interest group that doesn't put protecting our kids over their own membership," he said.
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