Ex-cop guilty in assault on teen
Former Grand Junction police officer Eric Janusz was found guilty on one of four counts of sexual assault on a child by a person in a position of trust.
The jury, whose verdicts were announced just before midnight following roughly 10 hours of deliberation, found the former officer not guilty on all remaining charges.
Janusz was immediately taken into custody pending sentencing and ordered by District Judge Valerie Robison held without bond. He could be sentenced to anywhere from 10 years to life in prison or probation, and must register as a convicted sex offender. Sentencing is scheduled for May 22.
The jury found in its verdict that Janusz, while employed as a police officer and on duty, had sex with a 16-year-old girl in 2000 in the gymnasium of then-Mesa State College.
At the end of 18 witnesses and two weeks of trial, the former officer’s words in social media and recorded phone calls should have left little doubt he had a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old girl in 2000, corroborating his accuser’s story, a prosecutor told jurors in closing arguments in the case of Janusz, 42.
The defense, however, argued Janusz’s recorded statements were misconstrued by prosecutors in a case of a scorned woman who lodged false accusations when a “toxic” relationship ended.
“Being a philanderer is not a crime and we don’t expect you to find Eric Janusz has acted honorably with respect to his relationships,” attorney Daniel Shaffer said in closing. “But the issue isn’t whether we like or dislike Eric Janusz.”
Jurors, five men and seven women, received the case just after noon Friday and started deliberations on four counts of sexual assault on a child by a person in a position of trust, three counts alleging a similar pattern of sexual abuse and misdemeanor menacing.
Janusz’s accuser, now 29, has testified to repeated sex with the officer, including at the then-Mesa State College police substation, in the school’s gymnasium, in the alleyway behind her grandmother’s old home in the 800 block of White Avenue and in the parking lot of Orchard Avenue Elementary School. Janusz was married at the time.
She testified their sexual relationship lasted “maybe” two months. Chief Deputy District Attorney Mark Hand defended the woman’s at-times shaky ability to place incidents with dates.
“Do you remember the month you went on vacation 11 years ago?” Hand asked jurors. “I submit (the woman’s recollection) is pretty good.”
Janusz, testifying in his own defense, acknowledged being sexually involved with the girl, but only when she was of legal age and most recently in 2011. He also testified he wasn’t assigned to the college substation until September 2000 — a notion disputed by prosecutors and contradicted by Janusz’s quotes in a Sept. 6, 2000, article published by The Criterion, the college’s student newspaper.
He acknowledged meeting the girl during a July 2000 runaway investigation involving her brother. Janusz said they met three times in 2000, while denying any of their encounters — that year, at least — were sexual.
Records showed Janusz at 1:03 a.m. on Oct. 14, 2000, answered a radio call from dispatchers about a theft in progress at Albertsons on 12th Street, according to testimony. While Janusz’s name is in a written report on the incident, attorneys quibbled over whether Janusz ever responded to handle the call.
His accuser testified she was performing oral sex on Janusz in the gymnasium of the college when they were interrupted by a radio call for an incident at Albertsons.
After answering his radio, the woman testified Janusz said they had time to finish and they did just that. He then left.
If the woman’s story is fabricated, “how would she know Albertsons was involved in a call, 11 years after the fact?” Hand told the jury, noting the records corroborating Janusz’s radio acknowledgement of an incident at Albertsons.
“The defense can’t address that,” Hand said. “I don’t care if (Janusz) showed up on scene or not.”
Also damning were Janusz’s own recorded words, the prosecutor said.
In an exchange of private messages with the woman on Facebook in April 2011, Janusz replied with an affirmative answer, typing a smiley face, when asked if he remembered, “the first time you got to handcuff me at the old Mesa State police station.”
Separately, in a phone call secretly recorded in September 2011, Janusz is heard laughing as the woman makes sexual discussion before raising what happened, “in the gym ... like old times.”
“You remember that?” she asks.
“Heck yeah,” Janusz is heard on the recording.
“That was awesome,” the woman replies.
The woman suggests they “re-enact it,” while suggesting he get a uniform and come over like she remembered, “back in the cop car ... the gym.”
Janusz said in testimony he and the accuser had sex at a local Gold’s Gym location in 2011, as well as that same year while he was on duty, in a city vehicle, when he was still a firefighter with the Grand Junction Fire Department. Janusz left the Police Department in 2006 and joined the Fire Department, where he worked before leaving in a dispute over workers’ compensation in the spring of 2012.
When asked in cross-examination whether city policy might have frowned on having sex in Fire Department vehicles, Janusz told the jury he didn’t think his bosses would have cared and there was no policy against it, Hand told the jury.
Hand’s response was incredulous, suggesting Janusz’s testimony was fabrication.
“So I guess the city of Grand Junction needs to write down specifically as policy: Do not have sex in city owned vehicles,” the prosecutor sarcastically told jurors.
The defense, throughout the trial, has questioned the timeline of events offered by the accuser, including her initial statement to Grand Junction police Sgt. Tony Clayton that sexual relations in 2000 lasted “two months, max.” She said they started having sex shortly after the July 2000 runaway call involving her brother.
“That’s why Oct. 14, 2000, (sex in college gymnasium testimony) is such a problem for the prosecution,” Shaffer told the jury. “It simply isn’t possible if you accept her initial statement about when the relationship started and how long it lasted.”
Janusz also testified he was the one in July 2011 who broke off the sexual relationship with the woman after becoming involved with another woman — Janusz had texted a nude photo of his new girlfriend to the woman.