Judge finds sufficient evidence in sex case
October 18, 2011
ASPEN – A judge ruled Monday that there is enough evidence to bind over a former Old Snowmass resident for trial on allegations that he had sexual relations with a boy in the early 2000s.
The defendant is Wilfred Laurent Carignan, a former monk in training at St. Benedict’s Monastery in Old Snowmass. He also was known as “Bill the Beekeeper,” and worked at the monastery from 1996 to 2001. The sexual acts allegedly occurred between 2001 and 2003, and not on the grounds of the monastery.
The 73-year-old man faces one class-three felony count of sexual assault on a child – position of trust – pattern of abuse.
Pitkin County District Judge Gail Nichols made her decision after hearing more than two hours of testimony from witnesses for the prosecution during a preliminary hearing, held in the Aspen court.
She also reviewed video evidence of the alleged victim being interviewed by Bruce Benjamin, a juvenile investigator for the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office.
Over the course of a near-one-hour interview, the alleged victim said that while Carignan was his tutor, they had sexual contact several times. The contacts occurred at Carignan’s Old Snowmass home, which was not part of the monastery, as well as in the back of Carignan’s truck and inside his secondhand shop in the Hotchkiss-Paonia area.
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The alleged victim told Benjamin he felt uncomfortable with Carignan, but “it’s not like he raped me.” He added that while there “was no violence ever …” “I wasn’t going to do everything he wanted me to do.”
The alleged victim, who was 11 and 12 years old at the time of the alleged offenses – which included acts of masturbation and oral sex – said he felt vulnerable around Carignan at the time.
“We talked about being gay, and he said he wouldn’t care if I was gay,” he told Benjamin.
He also said the alleged encounters “didn’t scar me. It didn’t affect me like some kids who would be traumatized.”
Benjamin testified as well, saying that in November 2010 he traveled to Broussard, La., to interview the alleged victim, now 22, about his sexual relations with Carignan. Benjamin said the sheriff’s office was informed of the allegations in September 2010 by officials at the monastery.
Monastery officials became aware of the allegations on Aug. 31, 2010. That’s when the monastery secretary found an envelope on a windowsill on the inside of the facility’s bookstore. The letter, from the alleged victim’s mother, said that Carignan, while working as a tutor for the boy, had sexual relations with him.
Also testifying was Lee Ann Martin, a former investigator for the 7th Judicial District Attorney’s Office. Martin recalled her time looking into allegations concerning Carignan in July 2003. That investigation led to two felony convictions of Carignan of sexual assault on a child out of Delta County. While Carignan mentioned the current alleged victim’s name to Martin, she didn’t thoroughly pursue the lead, instead focusing on the accusers in Delta County, she said.
Carignan has been held in the Pitkin County Jail for the last week, and is serving separate prison sentences of six and eight years to life in the Fremont Correction Facility in Canon City on the Delta County convictions.
He is represented in the current case by Garth McCarty of Glenwood Springs. McCarty contended that most of the testimony heard Monday was hearsay evidence. He also argued that he should have been given an opportunity to cross-examine the alleged victim, even if it was by telephone. Instead, he argued, the court only relied on video evidence of an interview with the accuser.
Nichols, however, pointed out the “bar is very low” in preliminary hearings, in which she must review the evidence in “a light most favorable to the prosecution.”
“That is the key piece of law here,” Nichols said, when explaining her ruling.
Carignan is due back in Pitkin County District on Nov. 1 for a motions hearing.