Woody Creek teen pleads guilty in Aspen area sex assault cases
A Woody Creek teen charged with sexually assaulting four local girls pleaded guilty Thursday to rape and physical assault in exchange for a plea deal that could make him a free man in two decades.
Henry Henley, 18, entered what are known as Alford guilty pleas in two of the four sexual assault cases filed against him last year. Aspen prosecutor Don Nottingham agreed to dismiss the 15 charges remaining against Henley in all four cases, and not to file any more charges in connection with other possible sexual assaults that were reported to police but never resulted in charges against him.
With an Alford plea, a defendant pleads guilty but does not admit guilt. Instead, the defendant agrees that evidence against him is likely to result in conviction.
Henley was 17 when he was charged with the four sex assault cases, though he was charged as an adult. However, The Aspen Times has never publicly identified him because Henley asked a District Judge to hold a hearing to determine whether his cases should be handled in juvenile court instead of adult court. Juveniles are generally not identified in The Times.
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That hearing, however, was repeatedly rescheduled over the past several months and was supposed to take place Thursday and Friday. Henley, however, decided to accept the plea deal instead and the hearing was canceled.
Thursday’s sexual assault plea includes Henley’s admission that he used physical violence to force the victim to submit to being raped, while the second-degree assault plea includes an admission to using a deadly weapon.
Under terms of the deal, Henley will serve five years in the Colorado Department of Corrections Youthful Offender System, where he will receive sexual offender treatment and rehabilitation. After that, he will spend at least the next 15 years — and possibly the rest of his life — on probation. The Probation Department will assess whether Henley can be released from probation after those 15 years.
Henley also will have to register as a sexual offender for the rest of his life.
When Nottingham outlined the plea deal in open court in May, he said he offered it because of Henley’s young age and to “minimize the potential trauma to victims” who would have to testify at trial.
Trent Trani, Henley’s lawyer, praised the Youthful Offender System at the time and said the plea deal was “a good offer.”
“It’s a great program for young people who need to be there,” Trani said in May.
Henley was charged in October with raping and choking two Aspen High School girls in July 2018. He also was charged with sexually assaulting another girl at a party Labor Day Weekend. Finally, Henley was facing charges for allegedly sexually assaulting a 5-year-old girl he was babysitting in 2016.
Nottingham said Wednesday that he’d spoken to all of the parents of the alleged victims in the case and all knew about Thursday’s plea hearing. The mother of one of the girls was the only one to attend Thursday, though she declined to comment afterward.
Henley barely spoke in court Thursday except to answer yes or no to District Judge Chris Seldin’s questions about whether he understood what he was doing.
Henley is scheduled to be officially sentenced Sept. 16 after probation officials complete a pre-sentence investigation and psycho-sexual evaluation of him.
Keegan Callahan, 21, of Woody Creek also is facing charges for allegedly raping and choking one of the high school girls with Henley. Callahan also is charged with raping the second victim Henley admitted assaulting Wednesday, though the incident allegedly occurred on a different date.
Callahan’s charges are pending. He is being held at the Garfield County Jail because Pitkin County Jail officials didn’t want to house him and Henley in the same jail.
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