Judge allows Basalt grooming suspect to spend time with children over holidays
A Basalt man, criminally accused of improperly touching and grooming two children at a day-care center, where he formerly worked, can spend limited time with his kids during the holidays, a judge ruled Monday.
Over the objection of the prosecution, Pitkin County District Judge Chris Seldin modified a protection order to allow defendant Christopher Tedstone, 41, up to two hours of daily supervised visitation with his children until Jan. 3, the date he is due back in court. The protection order originally precluded Tedstone from associating or being in the presence of anybody under 18 years old.
The judge’s ruling, in addition to siding with Tedstone’s wife’s motion to modify the protection order, instructed the wife to directly supervise Tedstone during the entirety of his visits.
“At the moment we have charges against Mr. Tedstone,” said Seldin. “He is presumed innocent until proven guilty. The timing is very challenging because we’re about to enter the holidays when many families gather and parents spend time with their children, and children expect to have their parents with them.”
Tedstone can only visit his children. Seldin declined his defense attorney’s request to allow Tedstone to visit family relatives under 18 years old over the holidays.
Pitkin County prosecutor Don Nottingham argued for the protection order to remain in its entirety.
“The investigation is ongoing in this case, and I don’t know if there will be further victims, but there certainly appears to be further grooming behavior at an absolute minimum,” he said.
Nottingham added, “The People have an objection to Mr. Tedstone having contact with any children. Certainly we object to him having contact with his nieces and nephews. We object to him having contact with his own children at this point. I understand the concerns with regard to children not being able to see their father. However, at this stage of the investigation, I have concerns for their safety, for the safety of the community, so I would object.”
The protection order has been in place ever since Basalt police arrested Tedstone, 41, on Dec. 9 amid their investigation into allegations from parents of two different children that Tedstone had improperly touched and interacted with them while they were attending the day-care center.
Tedstone, who is out of jail on $50,000 bond, has denied the accusations. He had worked at the midvalley day-care center from late December 2019 until July when he was fired, according to his former supervisor.
Tedstone waived advisement at Monday’s arraignment hearing on the class 3 felony charge of sexual assault on a child by one in a position of trust. A conviction of the charge carries four to 12 years in prison and up to $750,000 in fines, and possibly 20 years to a lifetime on Colorado’s Sex Offender Intensive Supervision Program.
Seldin called on the prosecution to work with the county Department of Health and Human Services, given the case’s child-welfare concerns. The judge urged the department to get involved.
“I will ask that the People (prosecution) request that the department (of health and human services) perform an evaluation of the family so that he court is advised with respect to the presence or absence of child welfare concerns vis-à-vis the Tedstones‘ own children having contact with their father, and in general as to whether there are any safety concerns within the home,” Seldin said.
Seldin said by Tedstone’s next hearing, scheduled in early January, he will expect “that the DHS (department of health and human services) will have had an opportunity to perform an evaluation between now and then and to advise the court as to whether the protection order should remain in place with the modification I’ve just allowed, namely to provide supervised visitation, altered or otherwise adjusted.”
The judge also cited the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2020 decision in Troxel v. Granville that the due process clause of the 14th Amendment gives parents the fundamental right to make decisions about their children’s care, control and custody.
“I agree that Mr Tedstone has a constitutional right to parent his children under Troxel v. Granville and other United States Supreme Court cases,” said Seldin. “Where all this leads the court is to conclude that Mr. Tedstone should be permitted supervised visitation with his children during the holidays for up to two hours per day with all such visitation with his own children supervised by the children’s mother, who has requested that the mandatory protection order be lifted with respect to their own children.”