Former Basalt choir director wants preliminary hearing in sexual assault case
Former Basalt High School music and choir teacher Brittany von Stein on Tuesday requested a preliminary hearing in the criminal case against her on suspicion of having sexual relations with a minor student.
Garfield County District Judge James Boyd set the hearing for Jan. 3. Von Stein, 26, of Carbondale, was arrested at her home Sept. 4 on three counts of sexual assault on a child by one in a position of trust.
At the preliminary hearing, Boyd will determine if there is enough evidence for von Stein to stand trial. The District Attorney’s Office must prove to a judge that there is sufficient evidence to convince a “reasonable person” to believe the defendant may be guilty of the crime.
Michael Fox, von Stein’s attorney, will try to shed doubt on the evidence and attempt to convince the judge that the case shouldn’t proceed to trial.
The court file was closed to public scrutiny Sept. 19 when Boyd ruled on a motion to seal the case, presumably filed by the family of the alleged minor victim.
Prior to the case being sealed, a Basalt police officer’s affidavit for an arrest warrant spelled out some of the alleged evidence against von Stein. Key pieces of evidence are sexually explicit text messages allegedly sent by von Stein to a student, according to the affidavit.
The texts were allegedly sent while the student was hanging out with friends one night. The student had fallen asleep and his friends read the texts, the affidavit said. One of the boys told a police officer about the texts Aug. 29.
That juvenile “said they saw messages from Ms. von Stein talking about kissing and sex,” the police officer’s affidavit said. “(The source) said the next morning, the entire group confronted (the student). (He) admitted that the texts were from Ms. von Stein. He further admitted to having an ongoing sexual relationship with Ms. von Stein.”
The alleged victim asked the other boys to “keep it a secret,” the affidavit said.
Investigators seized the alleged victim’s smartphone. On Aug. 30, the alleged victim told the police investigator that he had been having an ongoing sexual relationship with von Stein in January and February of 2019.
“I was able to document at least three separate encounters that (the student) said von Stein had sexual intercourse with him,” the officer’s affidavit said.
The student said his phone contained texts that detailed their sexual relationship.
The texts were a turning point in the investigation, according to the affidavit. Police opened the investigation Aug. 14 but the alleged victim initially denied having sex with von Stein. The student said his heavy workload required him to have private vocal lessons with von Stein.
“(The student) said that during one of those private lessons, he kissed Ms. von Stein,” the affidavit said. “He said she told him that no one could ever know that happened; it would have to be their secret.”
The student acknowledged he flirted with von Stein via texts and although she didn’t flirt back initially, she eventually became “very personal with him through text.”
The student initially told Wright there were rumors he was having sex with von Stein, but that it wasn’t true. He admitted he might have bragged to friends while intoxicated about having sex with her. He changed his story after police learned about the texts.
The affidavit also said von Stein reported to school administrators in August that one of her students, a juvenile male, had kissed her during a private vocal lesson. The administrators asked the Basalt police department to open an investigation.
Von Stein hired the firm of Kalamaya Goscha to represent her. The firm released a statement Sept. 5 that said, “We are continuing to investigate this case, but it is clear that there is more to this story than what’s been previously reported. Brittany is innocent until her guilt is proven beyond a reasonable doubt. She appreciates the community support she has received. Out of respect for the judicial process and the ongoing investigation, we will not be commenting further.”
The school district hired a replacement for von Stein’s position.
A Basalt man convicted of attempting to sexually assault a woman in the bathroom of downtown Aspen restaurant could spend the rest of his life behind bars under the state’s sex offender sentencing act.