Aspen ex-cop: ‘The guilt is never going to go away’
ASPEN – Speaking publicly Thursday for the first time since he resigned from the Aspen Police Department following his arrest last year for attempted sexual exploitation of a child, Joseph Holman told a jury he wrecked his family and lives with the guilt every day.
“I’ve ruined 10 years of my life, and the life of my [stepdaughter], my son and my wife,” Holman testified. “My guilt is constant. The guilt is never going to go away.”
Holman, 39, was reserved and composed during most of his three-plus hour testimony, but he teared up when his defense attorney, Lawson Wills, asked him about the toll the case has taken on his family.
“I can’t expect my family to be all right with what I did because it’s not all right,” he said, later adding, “I ruined my family.”
Holman’s testimony highlighted the trial’s third day in Pitkin County District Court, where he’s accused of planting a miniature digital camera in the shower stall of his stepdaughter, for sexual purposes, on April 29, 2009.
The stepdaughter discovered the camera, which was placed in a toy bag but in plain view, the same day. He initially denied he planted the camera, but the next morning Holman confessed to his wife that he’d done it.
Holman said his motives, however, were not sexually driven as claimed by the prosecution, which has charged him with two felony counts of sexual exploitation of a child, along with evidence tampering, also a felony.
Instead, Holman said he and his stepdaughter had had a strained relationship over the past few years, and it came to a boiling point on the day he planted the camera. Earlier that day, the stepdaughter had gone out for lunch with some friends on early release day from Aspen High School, even though she was grounded.
While Holman’s wife had given the alleged victim permission to eat out with her friends, Holman said he felt his authority had been undermined, and that this was the latest in a string of domestic problems in which his parental clout was eroding.
Holman said he’d grown desperate in an effort to discipline his stepdaughter, though that was an area his wife chiefly handled. Grounding her and taking away her cell phone and computer was ineffective, he said.
“As it continued I continued to get angrier and angrier,” he said, explaining that he felt that his wife was not tough enough on a rogue daughter who lived by her own set of rules.
Believing that his stepdaughter was paranoid, and angry himself, Holman said he planted the camera to make her mad. He also said the camera was not working at the time and he had no intentions of capturing images of her. Later, he went to his job at the Aspen Police Department.
“Why would you torture that girl?” Wills asked.
“I knew I would piss her off … this rash decision was out of pure hatred for my daughter.”
During cross examination, prosecutor Jonathan Pototsky appeared bewildered that Holman planted the camera to spite his stepdaughter. Pototsky also said that while Holman said the camera’s battery was dead at the time, there was no way of knowing that because the ex-cop destroyed the device.
“You’re so angry you put a camera in the shower and turn around and go to work?” Pototsky asked Holman.
“Yes,” he replied.
The video camera incident prompted the family to undergo counseling at the county’s health and human services program, where an official turned the case over to local authorities. Eventually, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI) inherited the case because of potential conflicts from Holman’s position as a police officer. Holman, who joined the police department as a community safety officer in 2000 and was a patrol officer from 2003 to 2009, resigned from the department on June 24, 2009, the day he was arrested.
“You knew you were caught ‘perving’ on Megan, correct?” Pototsky asked Holman.
“No,” he replied.
In fact, throughout his testimony, Holman said he never expected the case to enter the criminal arena. Rather, he said he considered it a private family matter.
“I never thought of it as a crime,” he said, adding that “I wasn’t thinking clearly in that time frame. My intentions were to make her mad … I didn’t expect it to go as far as it did.”
Jurors also were allowed to submit written, anonymous questions, which Judge James Boyd read to Holman.
One juror asked, “Do you think it’s a big deal to peep on a woman?”
Replied Holman: “I know it’s a big deal, but that’s not the intent here.”
Since the incident, the stepdaughter has moved to California to live with family members. Holman said the blame falls squarely on him.
Also testifying Thursday was Brooks Bennett of the CBI, who investigated the case. Bennett said that while Holman was cooperative during the investigation, Holman told him that “this looks ugly.” There was no indication that Holman downloaded any videos onto his police department-issued computer, Bennett said.
Testimony from another witness for the prosecution, Kimberly Hilderbrand, the youth and family services manager for Pitkin County Health and Human Services, which initially opened the case, was dismissed. That’s because Hilderbrand discussed evidence that the defense had not been made privy to until she took the stand.
The prosecution has rested its case, and both sides expect the 12-member jury to begin deliberations some time Friday.
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