Evidence battle in former Aspen officer’s video-camera case
June 25, 2010
ASPEN – While a former Aspen police officer is scheduled to stand trial next month for allegedly planting a video camera in his stepdaughter’s shower stall, the prosecution is seeking to introduce other potentially questionable episodes.
Attorneys in the case of Joseph Holman argued Friday over whether seven alleged incidents in 2008 – one year before Holman was arrested and resigned from the Aspen Police Department – should be admitted as evidence at trial, scheduled to begin July 13 in Pitkin County District Court.
The stepdaughter, who now lives in California with her sister and brother-in-law, testified June 1 that Holman had been invading her privacy at least one year before the alleged video-camera incident. At that time she brought her complaint to authorities, which spurred a probe by the Colorado Bureau of Investigations. But charges were not filed because the stepdaughter recanted her story.
The girl said she was influenced to change the 2008 story, which she now contends to be true, by her mother, who was fearful that the allegations would break up the family.
Prosecutor Jonathan Pototsky claimed that the 2008 “acts” will show a jury that Holman was sexually fixated on his stepdaughter.
“If you don’t let this in,” Pototsky told Judge James Boyd, “the jury will not be able to see the scheme. They will not see [Holman’s] modus operandi.”
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During the summer of 2008, Holman allegedly touched his stepdaughter inappropriately during massages, planted a small mirror in her bathroom, peeped through her bedroom window, and intruded on her in her bedroom and bathroom, Pototsky said.
He also said Holman had a questionable image on his computer – not of the alleged victim, but of a woman who appears to be in a shower. The image, however, reveals no bare body parts, according to testimony.
Holman’s attorney, Lawson Wills, argued that the acts in question are insignificant, and there’s no evidence – only testimony from the stepdaughter – to prove they actually occurred. However, Wills argued that they not be allowed at trial, as they will only prejudice a jury.
“There is not a connection between what he is alleged to have done in 2009 and what he is alleged to have done in 2008,” Wills argued.
He added: “This case is based on a volume of accusations, not quality of accusations.”
Wills also said the alleged victim has changed her 2008 versions of what happened so many times that it’s difficult to follow the sequence of the alleged “acts.”
“The victim can’t get the story straight, Pototsky can’t get the story straight, and I can’t get the story straight,” he said.
Boyd took the matter under advisement, indicating that some “acts” might be admitted as evidence, while others might not.
“The court’s conclusions may not be the same on every [act],” he said. “They all deserve analysis.”
The hearing was continued Friday, with testimony from Kim Hilderbrand, youth and family services manager at Pitkin County Human Services; and former Aspen police officer Jim Crowley, now an investigator for Wills in his defense of Holman.
Hilderbrand became involved with the 2008 case when the girl and her mother sought counseling over the matter. She testified that it is not uncommon for alleged victims to change their story, especially when pressured by family members. That’s what Hilderbrand said she believed happened when the girl recanted her 2008 allegations.
Wills, however, pressed Hilderbrand and accused her department of not reaching any conclusions in the case, even though it interviewed the stepdaughter six times.
Crowley testified that when he interviewed the alleged victim last summer, after Holman’s arrest, she said “she wanted to get rid of Joe. She wanted to get her parents divorced.”
The alleged video-camera incident happened April 29, 2009. After being placed on administrative leave a month later, Holman resigned from the Aspen Police Department on June 24, the day he was arrested.
Holman allegedly told authorities he placed the video camera in the shower stall to make his stepdaughter mad. Holman, who joined the APD in 2000 as a community safety officer, also allegedly destroyed the camera after being confronted about it.
Holman, 39, is charged with the felony counts of criminal attempt to commit sexual exploitation of children, criminal attempt to commit sexual exploitation of a child, and tampering with criminal evidence. He faces up to 20 years in state prison if convicted.
The trial is expected to last five days.