Stark differences surface at Aspen rape sentencings of Callahan, Henley
Monday’s sentencing of a Woody Creek teen who pleaded guilty to violently raping two local girls presented two starkly different points of view.
On one side was prosecutor Don Nottingham, who said Henry Henley, 18, was a dishonest, deceitful and violent sex offender with an anti-social personality disorder who will likely fail to complete the sweetheart plea deal he accepted last month. Henley’s victims, by contrast, are courageous heroines who came forward to stop future sexual assaults, he said.
“(The first girl who reported Henley’s actions) is a hero,” Nottingham said. “And the other young women who came forward in this case are heroes.”
Henley’s lawyer, Trent Trani of Denver, had a different take on the situation.
He first talked about how “people including teenage girls” make false rape statements to police and that to disregard the possibility of that in this case “is not the correct thing to do.”
Furthermore, mandatory minimum sentences associated with the sex assault charges Henley faced made it impossible to go to trial and challenge the veracity of the victims’ accounts and examine their sexual histories, Trani said. He couldn’t gamble on Henley’s future when he was facing between 55 years and life in prison, Trani said.
Henley was ultimately failed by Aspen schools, Aspen police, the Aspen District Attorney’s Office and psychiatrists since he was 6 years old and diagnosed as having attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, Trani said.
Finally, he tore into Aspen parents and society in general.
“This city has some serious issues,” Trani said. “The children in this city run amok. There’s rampant drug use. The sex these kids are having in these high schools. I was amazed.”
Without some deep civic reflection, “this is not the last time a case like this will be in this courtroom,” he said.
Henley pleaded guilty in August to felony second-degree assault in which he admitted to using his hands as a deadly weapon. That plea is related to allegations that he restrained and choked a 16-year-old girl before sexually assaulting her. He also pleaded guilty to felony sexual assault using force on another victim.
In exchange for the pleas, Nottingham agreed to drop 15 other counts related to those two cases and two others. He said Monday he offered the plea because of Henley’s young age and to save the victims from the traumatic experience of testifying at trial.
Henley was sentenced to the Colorado Department of Corrections Youthful Offender System for five years. Assuming he successfully completes that program, he will face a minimum of 20 years of probation and a maximum of life. During the probationary period, he must take part in intensive sex offender probation and register as a sex offender for the rest of his life. He cannot ever have any contact with any of the victims in the case.
If Henley violates his probation, his probation sentence could be converted to a prison sentence, District Judge Chris Seldin said.
Henley did not speak in court Monday on the advice of his lawyer. And while Trani blamed nearly everyone but his client for Monday’s outcome, he did acknowledge that Henley might be somewhat responsible.
“Mr. Henley understands he’s not perfect,” Trani said. “He has some work to do and he knows that.”
Keegan Callahan, Henley’s co-defendant, also was sentenced Monday. He pleaded guilty earlier this month to sexual exploitation of a child and second-degree assault — both felonies — as well as two misdemeanor counts of unlawful sexual contact.
Callahan, 21, was sentenced to 14 years in prison, which will be followed by five years of parole as part of his plea deal. He also will be required to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life. Callahan didn’t speak in court Monday, either.
Abe Hutt, Callahan’s Denver-based lawyer, also bemoaned the mandatory sentencing laws that he said treated his client the same as a first-degree murderer. He said both defendants and the victims in the case all had mental health issues long before they ever met, and that labeling one side heroes and the other evil will ensure similar case continue to appear.
Hutt also brought up sex by Aspen teens.
“If the court knew what kind of consensual sexual behavior was taking place by (these) teens and (Callahan), you would lose your breath,” he said.
Both teenage victims spoke in court Monday before the two defendants were sentenced.
“What he did I can never forgive,” one said to Henley. “Goodbye, Henry. I do hope the world isn’t kind to you.”
The second victim told Henley that he and Callahan wounded them deeply.
“They don’t know what they took from us — from not just me but everyone,” she said.
The first victim told Callahan that people always told her to stay away from him, but she didn’t immediately realize why. The second victim said people told her Callahan was a bad person, but she didn’t believe it.
She said that when Henley assaulted her, she asked Callahan, who was present in the room, to help her.
“You just looked at your phone and ignored me,” she said tearfully.
After the Monday’s court proceeding, the first victim said that hearing Trani cast doubt on her story was “really frustrating.” She said she doesn’t want anything from Henley and Callahan and wouldn’t have chosen to go through such a terrible experience.
“It kind of invalidates everything I’ve gone through,” she said. “None of us wanted to deal with it, but at a certain point, we have to.”
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A former choir teacher at Basalt High School was sentenced Wednesday to 90 days in Garfield County Jail and an undetermined time on probation for a sexual relationship with a male student. Brittany von Stein, 26, was ordered to report to jail at 6 p.m. Wednesday.