District Attorney opens new case against defendant
Sexual assault charges against a Crested Butte South man accused of drugging and sexually assaulting a local woman May 3 and May 4, 2014 have been dropped by the district attorney.
In district court on Thursday, April 16, Dan Hotsenpiller, district attorney of the Seventh Judicial District, requested the case against 44-year-old Kendall Collins be dismissed, stating that the DA’s office “cannot prove the charges in this case beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Hotsenpiller then filed a new complaint against Collins with the court. An arraignment hearing on the new charge of tampering with physical evidence has been set for May 11.
The original charges were dropped almost a year after being filed because the DA determined that the sexual assault case against Collins could not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Several reasons were listed in DA Hotsenpiller’s motion to dismiss the case, including that forensic evidence shows the DNA of the defendant on a pair of underwear worn by the victim, but no presence of a “date rape” drug was found in the victim’s hair follicle sample and no other evidence supports proof that the victim was given a drug.
In addition, according to the motion to dismiss, the victim has been clear since the investigation opened that she does not remember any of the events surrounding any sexual contact besides being given an alcoholic drink, then waking up unclothed, and observations of the victim’s behavior during the two days by third parties do not refute or corroborate whether the victim was under the influence of a drug other than alcohol.
The motion to dismiss claims the investigation has not discovered evidence regarding the defendant’s state of mind (a.k.a. criminal intent), a necessary element of any and all potential charges in this case, and the defendant has made no statements or admissions that provide proof related to his state of mind.
In summary, the district attorney does not possess sufficient evidence to prove a criminal intent on the part of Collins. Thus, according to Hotsenpiller, there is an ethical duty on the part of the state to dismiss the charges. However, Collins will soon return to district court for a separate felony charge.
During the investigation of the sexual assault case, officers received information that led them to believe Collins had an illegal marijuana grow operation located in his home. A search warrant was executed May 14, 2014. During that search, officers discovered signs of a sophisticated grow operation but the planters were filled with what appeared to be newly planted flowers and vegetables. It was later alleged that former Gunnison County deputy attorney Art Trezise had informed a friend of Collins that officers were coming to search the property, giving Collins time to cover up the grow operation.
Trezise was relieved of his job with the county last month upon filing a plea deal for charges that he was an accessory to a crime. Collins now faces a Class 6 felony charge for tampering with physical evidence for allegedly covering up signs of the illegal marijuana grow operation.
Hotsenpiller explained why the sexual assault case was dismissed and another charge was filed. As he told the News, “We have no evidence that anything related to the sexual assault was removed, tampered with, hidden, or anything. We don’t know exactly what they cleared out of the house, but we do have solid, direct evidence that marijuana plants were. I can’t say nothing else was taken, I can only say that all I have evidence of is the grow operation.”
In the new complaint filed against Collins upon dismissal of the sexual assault case, Hotsenpiller wrote, “Collins, believing that an official proceeding was pending… unlawfully and feloniously destroyed, mutilated, concealed, removed or altered physical evidence….”
Collins is scheduled to appear in Gunnison District Court on Monday, May 11 for his arraignment in the new tampering with physical evidence case.