Defense gains access to grand jury transcripts in Aspen assault case
ASPEN – A public defender’s bid to gain access to the names of grand jury members who indicted an Aspen man for sexual assault was rejected Friday by a judge.
District Judge James Boyd, however, granted the public defender’s office access to transcripts from the colloquy between prosecutors and members of the grand jury, a panel of Pitkin County residents who indicted Jacob Frutin in September. Those transcripts must remain sealed from the public, Boyd ruled.
Boyd’s decision came after public defender Stephen McCrohan filed motions challenging the indictment, on the grounds that he has no way of knowing whether the grand jury was tainted or if members were selected prejudicially. Grand jury hearings are closed to the public.
Boyd said that for him to release the grand jury master list, it would have to be clearly established that there was impropriety on the prosecutor’s part. The judge said he did not find such misconduct on prosecutor Arnold Mordkin’s behalf.
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Boyd also noted that his review of the colloquy “does not show clear examples of inappropriate conduct.”
However, the judge explained in granting the defense access to the grand jury transcripts, the “defendant’s right to material evidence deserves great weight.”
McCrohan’s motion to determine the validity of the indictment is still pending.
Frutin, who has been in the custody of Pitkin County jail since May 2009, is charged with sexual assault of a victim under the age of 15 and providing marijuana to a person under 15. He also is accused of a second sexual assault count and unlawful distribution of a controlled substance (psilocybin mushrooms).
The alleged incidents happened in November 2007.
Frutin, 22, was originally charged by Mordkin. But Mordkin dropped those charges, and took the matter to the grand jury. In doing so, Mordkin did not have to establish probable cause in a preliminary hearing because of the grand jury indictment.
Frutin’s next court appearance is scheduled March 1.
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