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Douglas County judge improperly labeled man ‘predator’ | Courts | #childpredator | #kidsaftey | #childsaftey

A Douglas County judge did not provide a clear reason why she designated a man a “sexually violent predator” and subjected him to lifetime sex offender registration, the Court of Appeals ruled on Thursday.

Under Colorado law, a person convicted of a sex offense is designated a sexually violent predator when, among other things, the defendant pursued a relationship with the victim primarily to abuse them sexually. The law also requires judges to make specific factual findings when deciding whether to apply the designation, which generally leads to lifetime sex offender registration.

Ditlev Andrew Hutchison pleaded guilty to one charge of attempted sex assault on a child relative. He underwent a sexually violent predator risk assessment. An evaluator found Hutchison broadly met the criteria for the designation, but at the same time indicated Hutchinson had not met the relationship component.

Although it was unclear whether Hutchison did or did not meet the legal criteria, District Court Judge Patricia Herron adopted the evaluator’s findings “in full” without elaboration.

“Mr. Hutchison does meet the criteria for sexually violent predator and will be designated as such,” she said. “I don’t think I need to go through them each for the record at this time. If you want me to, I can, but I don’t know that I really need to. I don’t think I’m really required to.”

Hutchison appealed, arguing there was no evidence he pursued a relationship with the victim for sexual purposes and the evaluator had said as much. The Colorado Attorney General’s Office agreed the facts did not support Herron’s ruling.

“(G)iven the inconsistent statements in the presentencing report and evaluations, along with the district court’s vague reference to adopting the ‘findings of the evaluator,’ we can’t say with any confidence what the district court found,” wrote Judge Stephanie Dunn in the Aug. 10 opinion for a panel of the Court of Appeals.

Because it could not tell whether Herron reached the correct decision, the panel reversed the sexually violent predator designation and ordered Herron to redo her ruling.

The case is People v. Hutchison.

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