Sex offender is ‘not providing services’ in valley

Rick Carroll
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

Parents of students throughout the Roaring Fork Valley were recently notified that a psychologist who counsels children is on the sex offender registries in two states – Michigan and Missouri. But as of Thursday, the psychologist was no longer offering his services in the valley, his attorney said.

Dr. Stephen Viola is “not providing services to anyone in Colorado now and will not be,” said Boulder lawyer Jon N. Banashek.

Banashek declined to answer questions pertaining to how long Viola had offered private counseling in the valley. Viola was not employed by any local schools.

Viola, contacted Thursday at his University of Missouri-St. Louis office, declined comment, referring questions to his attorney.

E-mails about Viola’s past began circulating among school administrators, teachers and parents last week.

On Friday, Skye Skinner, executive director of COMPASS, which operates the Aspen Community School, Carbondale Community School and Early Childhood Center, sent an e-mail to parents and staff noting that Viola is “an educational therapist/psychologist residing part-time in the valley who is a registered sex offender in Missouri and Michigan.”

Skinner’s e-mail went on to say that “Viola is not in the employ of our schools, but there may be families who seek his therapy privately, and we believe it is our responsibility to share this information so that you can make informed choices.”

Banashek said the e-mail incorrectly stated that Viola, 44, lives part-time in the valley.

“Mr. Viola is not a part-time resident not only of the valley, but also Colorado,” he said.

A specialist in autism research, Viola, who also has had speaking engagements in the valley, has published two books – one on sensory integration dysfunction and the other on the approach and treatment of attention disorders. His contact information also is listed on the Roaring Fork Autism Network’s website.

Additionally, he has taught classes at Colorado Mountain College, according to Judy Haptonstall, superintendent of the Roaring Fork School District, which comprises Basalt, Carbondale and Glenwood Springs schools.

Earlier this week, students at the schools were given notes to take home to their parents concerning Viola, Haptonstall said. The superintendent said she researched Viola’s background over the weekend, after receiving Skinner’s e-mail, and decided she should alert parents in her district.

“I would hate for anybody to contract with him to do work with their kids and not have any information about him,” she said. “I’m certainly not making any judgment on him one way or another. I’m just passing along the facts that we knew about him.”

Viola was placed on the Michigan Public Sex Offender Registry in August 1998, less than three weeks after he was convicted on two counts of accosting children for immoral purposes. Both victims were boys, aged 10 and 9, according to the Missouri Highway State Patrol website, where he is also listed as a sex offender for the same charges. Viola was 32 years old at the time of the offenses, Feb. 18, 1998.

His status is listed as “compliant” with the Michigan State Police, and his registration is scheduled to expire Aug. 12, 2023.

According to the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies, Viola does not have a license to practice psychology in Colorado.

The Aspen Police Department is aware of the situation and has looked into Viola ever since the school e-mails surfaced, Investigator Walter Chi said.