Teacher refuses to give name, risks jail time
November 10, 2005
A judge threatened a teacher Thursday with a possible jail term and fines when she refused to name a student witness in the trial of Cinthia Romero.The high drama of the day came when the defense called Linda Lafferty as a witness after the jury had been taken out of the courtroom. Lafferty, who teaches English Language Learners at Aspen High School, was ordered to tell the court about a story she heard a student tell concerning one of the people involved in the trial.But before she could relate the story, defense attorney Arnie Mordkin asked her to name the student, and she told the judge she could not and would not do so.”I have to protect my students,” she told Judge James Boyd. “I can’t answer that question. … I can tell you what was said, I just can’t tell you who said it.” She said she was worried that revealing the name might bring “retribution against my students.”Lafferty did not say what kind of retribution might be involved, or from whom.Mordkin pressed for the name of the student, and the judge cautioned Lafferty that her refusal to answer could draw a contempt of court charge, which could land her in the Pitkin County Jail and result in a fine that would compound for every day she refused to speak.After the initial exchange, which happened at noon, the judge gave Lafferty until 5:30 p.m. to consult with the attorneys before he would go any further with the matter.Although the full nature of Lafferty’s testimony was not revealed, Mordkin in court said Lafferty had called Pitkin County Investigator Bruce Benjamin on Oct. 12, 2004. In that call, Mordkin said, Lafferty told Benjamin a student had told her about seeing Jaime Castro – her former boyfriend who has pleaded guilty to the assault – and an unidentified white man. Mordkin has emphasized throughout the trial that the 16-year-old victim initially told police that two men, one white and one Latino, had picked her up in a park and taken her up the pass, where they tried to rape her and then beat her Oct. 9. The victim recanted that story after three days and named Castro and Romero as her assailants. Romero is on trial on a charge of attempted murder.After a closed-door session Thursday in the judge’s chambers involving the two attorneys, Lafferty and the judge, Boyd said he would address the matter again Monday morning when the trial resumes. Because the state of Colorado formally observes Veterans Day, the court is taking today off.