Attorney unloads on Aspen cops, DA after rape charge dropped
The District Attorney’s Office dropped a count of felony sexual assault against a longtime Aspen visitor and Texas oilman and dismissed the case against him earlier this week, according to court records.
On Thursday, an Aspen lawyer for Scott Wood, 61, blasted the DA’s Office, the Aspen Police Department and the alleged victim in the case, saying the case should never have been filed in the first place.
“I’m a woman and I’m very much in support of the Me Too movement,” said Beth Krulewitch, one of three lawyers representing Wood in Aspen, Denver and Houston. “However, the D.A. and the police department need to do a different job. It’s not their job to believe every allegation. Sometimes some women are not to be believed.”
Krulewitch said police and prosecutors should better investigate allegations like those leveled at her client before filing charges. She also said the alleged victim in the case “has a reputation in Aspen for not telling the truth,” acting vindictively toward men when she doesn’t get her way and has caused irreparable harm to Wood.
“He’s incredibly angry,” Krulewitch said of Wood. “He wants vindication. He’s not a rapist. He wants people to know this case was dismissed because it wasn’t true. It was completely unfounded.”
Deputy District Attorney Don Nottingham filed a motion Tuesday to dismiss the sex assault charge against Wood, and District Judge Chris Seldin ordered the case dismissed later the same day, according to court documents.
In his motion, Nottingham said he made the decision to dismiss the charge “after consultation with the victim and in consideration of her requests, and upon review of the available evidence.”
On Thursday, Nottingham declined to comment further on why he dismissed the charge or Krulewitch’s criticism of his office.
However, Bill Linn, assistant Aspen police chief, stood up for his department, saying detectives interviewed two dozen witnesses, established probable cause that was agreed to by the DA’s Office and District Court judge, and Linn stands behind their investigation.
“We believe we did the right thing in this case,” Linn said. “We also recognize how difficult cases like this are to prosecute, particularly the impacts on the victim. I really hope the outcome doesn’t discourage victims from coming forward when they need our help.”
An Aspen attorney who represents the alleged victim in the case cited a U.S. Department of Justice statistic that less than 3% of rapes reported to police result in conviction, and said his client “is angered to see her case be another example of an imperfect process.”
“The victim is thankful for the district attorney’s willingness to consider the immense emotional impact that these proceedings have had on her life,” attorney Michael Fox said in an email to The Aspen Times. “The victim is still coping with the trauma that she endured that night, and she continues to endure trauma from Mr. Wood’s attempts to victim-shame her.”
The woman “will consider her remaining options, including holding Mr. Wood accountable in civil court,” Fox said in the email. No legal action has yet been filed against Wood.
Wood, of Houston, was charged in April after the alleged victim told police she and Wood spent a night out in Aspen drinking heavily and ended up back at his hotel room. She said she remembered only bits and pieces of what happened, but that Wood made comments about having sex with her and she didn’t think she’d been capable of providing consent because of her level of intoxication, according to previously filed court documents.
Wood, a former owner of Houston-based oil companies, has suffered “horrible consequences” as a result of the charge being filed against him, Krulewitch said. He is also considering legal action as a result of the accusations, she said.
A civil deputy kept her job and was mandated to undergo counseling after Aspen police arrested her in July on suspicion of driving under the influence and reckless driving.