Officials fight seal on Dewey records
Citing lawsuit threats and a pending criminal case, Mesa County, Palisade and the District Attorney’s Office will oppose efforts to seal criminal records of a man who was wrongfully imprisoned nearly 16 years for rape and murder, according to court filings.
Robert “Rider” Dewey, in a formal request he filed in December seeking to close records from his 1996 conviction, said he wants the matter sealed by a judge for obvious reasons.
“It’s my right,” he said. “If I didn’t do the crime, why have it on my record? Filling out a job application, they assume the police are never wrong.”
If granted, the DA’s Office, Colorado Bureau of Investigation, Mesa County Sheriff’s Department and Palisade Police Department would be under court order to essentially erase records in the case.
The DA’s office, however, asserted in a filing last week that Dewey is trying “to have his cake and eat it, too.”
In a formal objection to Dewey’s request, Assistant District Attorney Rich Tuttle noted that Dewey’s attorneys have filed a notice of claim, arguing he’s owed $18 million in damages by Mesa County and Palisade. Dewey’s threats of a lawsuit raised allegations of misconduct by Palisade police and the Sheriff’s Department in the original investigation into the 1994 murder of Jacie Taylor, 19.
“It is inconceivable as to how the named governmental entities — the town of Palisade and Mesa County — could defend themselves against the proposed civil claims of the defendant if the records at issue were sealed by this court,” Tuttle wrote in objection.
The Mesa County Attorney’s Office and lawyers for Palisade have also opposed the request.
Tuttle argues there are other reasons to deny Dewey’s request.
The records are “absolutely essential” to prosecuting 40-year-old Douglas Thames, the man implicated last April in Taylor’s murder, the prosecutor said. Thames is already serving life in prison without the possibility of parole for the 1989 murder of a Fort Collins woman.
Dewey may be called as a prosecution witness in Thames’ case, the filing read.
“Dewey is not merely another witness in the Thames prosecution, it is anticipated that he will be cast as an alternative suspect by Thames’ defense counsel,” Tuttle wrote.
The public interest in not sealing the records outweighs Dewey’s right to privacy, prosecutors argued.
“Although undersigned counsel concedes the defendant should someday be entitled to seal the records at issue, the day will only arrive after the pending murder case is finished and the anticipated civil litigation is resolved,” the filing said.
Mesa County District Judge Richard Gurley is expected to decide the issue at a hearing next month.
Dewey was charged in connection with the murder and rape of Taylor, whose body was found June 4, 1994, partially clothed in a bathtub inside her Palisade apartment. A Mesa County jury convicted Dewey in October 1996 of first-degree murder and first-degree sexual assault and sentenced him to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Dewey, now 52 and a resident of Colorado Springs, was released from prison April 30, 2012, after new DNA testing didn’t link him to crucial evidence in the case, while implicating Thames.
Dewey has said he recently learned monthly food stamp payments he’d been getting were soon to be slashed to around $90, down from roughly $600 per month. State Rep. Dan Pabon, D-Denver, is expected to introduce a bill into the Colorado Legislature this week that would provide compensation for wrongly convicted people.