What do you have when the legal process is so screwed up that charges vanish into thin air halfway through the trial? Well, the Colorado sex crimes laws of course!
Meaghan Scull was alleged to have been sexually molested by Michael Fleenor from the mid-1980's well into the late 1990's. At the start of it all she was in her adolescent years. In the later days she was in her mid-teens. The problem is that she started drinking when she was 14 so that she could forget the whole nightmare. That was roughly in 1996 when the Colorado sex offense laws changed for the worse making sex offenders in Colorado potential life sentence candidates. Due to Sculls' alcohol use in those teen years, the jury acquitted Fleenor on all charges that occurred once Scull started drinking. In other words, the Arapahoe County Sex crimes for molestation and Child Incest that were alleged that would have put Fleenor away for possible life sentences, were NOT GUILTY findings by the jury. The jury DID however find Fleenor guilty of the molestation crimes that were charged BEFORE Scull started drinking, which also happened to be crimes that occurred BEFORE the law change on sex crimes in Colorado in 1996. There is a problem however, halfway through this trial, the Colorado Supreme Court made a ruling on sex crimes specifically addressing the issue of crimes charged BEFORE the rule change in 1996. They interpreted the rule change by the legislature to intend that any Colorado sex crimes that happened before 1996 were to only have a 10-year statute of limitations. So technically, the crimes that the jury found Fleenor guilty on, couldn't be prosecuted, and in a legal poof of logic, Fleenor is free. His POST 1996 crimes were not convictions due to the jury doubting Scull's credibility as she drank from 1996 on, and the PRE 1996 crimes couldn't be prosecuted due to a Supreme Court ruling that happened mid-trial on a sex assault case in Arapahoe!!! Folks, I am a sex assault defense lawyer and even I think that is somehow screwed up. Just give us the rules, stop changing them, and let us work!
It's all very confusing if you are not a Colorado Sex Assault criminal defense attorney. My name is Shazam Kianpour and I am a Colorado criminal lawyer and a large part of my practice is the defense of sex crimes in Arapahoe, Douglas, Jefferson, Denver, Adams, and all counties in the metro Denver area and Colorado region, so if you care enough to find out how it all shakes out, email or call me and I will explain it to you.
The story is sad and it is harsh for me to say, but the story is almost secondary. What in my mind is primary is not advocating blindly for one defendant to be freed or for a prosecutor to win or lose a case. Yeah, yeah, I know as criminal defense lawyers we should all band together and every win for a defendant is a win for us all etc etc.
I am not so easily swayed with that argument. Polarizing? Maybe, but a front-runner, nope, not me, never.
More frustrating than anything else however is how this so clearly illustrates the absolute disaster that is known as Colorado Sex Crimes laws and jurisprudence today. NOBODY knows what's coming down the pipe, and the sex laws just get more convoluted and impossible to discern. I know the prosecutor on this case. He is a hard working, ethical, and well respected lawyer who knows his job and makes his office proud. This case documents clearly that our legislature, and our Supreme Court have no idea what the other is doing or intending. Come to think of it, it is more or less a micro-view of the US Supremes and Congress today. The problem is, it's only getting worse.