Ex-officer testifies for defense in Aspen rape case
ASPEN – Former Aspen police officer Jim Crowley testified Thursday that the Aspen Police Department could have done a better job of handling evidence in the case of a man accused of raping a local woman.
An 18-year veteran of the police department, Crowley was fired in 2008 for allegedly showing up to work under the influence of alcohol.
He has since become a private investigator, and is working for the public defender’s office in its representation of Emanuel Gonzalez-Loujun, 22, the suspect in the allegedly violent rape of an Aspen woman on the morning of Jan. 17, 2009.
At least six officers attended yesterday’s motions hearing in Pitkin County District Court, including Assistant Police Chief Linda Consuegra, investigators Ian MacAyeal and Chris Womack, and officer Rick Magnuson, all of whom worked with Crowley at one time.
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Public defenders want the case against Gonzalez-Loujun, of Carbondale, either dismissed or sanctions levied against the district attorney’s office for the police department’s alleged mishandling of the suspect’s blood work.
Defense attorneys claim that, because the blood was contaminated due to the police department’s failure to refrigerate it, they cannot demonstrate that Gonzalez-Loujun was high on cocaine and under the influence of alcohol when he allegedly assaulted Aspen police officer Leon Murray and was found with 13 bindles of cocaine.
The suspect originally was arrested – the same morning – for allegedly assaulting Murray and on drug distribution charges, after cops encountered him walking away from the Centennial Apartments complex when they were responding to a report that a rape had occurred.
Without that proof of his intoxication, which the defense team believes is exculpatory evidence, the so-called affirmative defense cannot be employed on the drug distribution and assault of a police officer charges. An affirmative defense would give the defense the opportunity to prove that Gonzalez-Loujun was so inebriated he was unaware of his actions the morning in question.
Public defenders also say police video footage shows that the suspect had difficulty standing up at the time of his arrest, and slurred his words. The same defense likely won’t be used in the sexual assault case because state law typically does not allow an affirmative defense in rape cases.
Several times, public defender Steven McCrohan asked Crowley about the department’s failure to properly preserve and refrigerate the suspect’s blood sample.
“Do you have an opinion whether the blood would have a material value to your investigation?” McCrohan asked Crowley.
“Yes, of course,” Crowley responded.
McCrohan also quizzed Crowley on whether the police department should have investigated the possible intoxication of the alleged victim. The department did not.
“It goes to her mental state and how reliable the victim is,” Crowley testified.
During cross-examination, Mordkin wasted no time in attacking Crowley’s credibility, first asking the ex-cop about his firing from the police department. Later, Mordkin grilled Crowley about his practices as an investigator for the department, in an effort to disqualify Crowley as an expert witness for the defense.
Mordkin also accused public defenders of using the tainted blood evidence as a “diversion tactic.”
McCrohan, however, said the fact that the blood was contaminated shows a repeated pattern of missteps by the police department in its handling of the case.
“There’s no way we can establish Mr. Gonzalez’s level of intoxication the morning in question because the police department allowed the evidence to degrade and coagulate to the point that it was untestable,” he said.
District Judge James Boyd took the matter under advisement, and expects to make a ruling on the motion to either dismiss or levy sanctions against the district attorney within the next few days.
In other developments, Boyd denied a motion by the public defender’s office seeking a special prosecutor. Other motions by the defense will be addressed Monday.
Since his arrest, Gonzalez-Loujun has been in the Pitkin County jail on a $250,000 bond. If convicted, he faces a lifetime in state prison. He has attended all of the motions hearings, and regularly takes notes.
He’s scheduled for a jury trial beginning March 29.
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