District attorney: Old case against officer Coyne was unprovable
District Attorney Pete Hautzinger defended his office’s decision not to pursue criminal charges last year against a police officer who was fired Thursday after being freshly accused of sexual assault.
Hautzinger called the old matter “unprovable.”
“As with any case, we have to consider whether we can prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt to a jury,” Hautzinger said, minutes after arguing bond Friday in a new case involving former Grand Junction Police Department officer Glenn Coyne.
“That’s significantly different than saying he didn’t do anything wrong,” Hautzinger said of a December 2008 incident involving Coyne and a local woman. The incident was investigated criminally by the Mesa County Sheriff’s Department, and internally by the Grand Junction Police Department.
Interim Grand Junction Police Chief John Camper said the incident, which authorities refused to explain in detail, happened after the woman invited Coyne to her home when he was off duty. That was after Coyne met her in the course of his job.
Camper has said the circumstances are similar to those involving the allegations Coyne now faces.
Camper said the two incidents involved separate women.
“We may be taking another look at it, depending on what happens with the Sheriff Department’s current investigation,” Hautinzger said of the first investigation of Coyne.
Former Grand Junction Police Chief Bill Gardner, who left the department Sept. 4, was involved in the December 2008 internal probe of Coyne.
“We had a case of something we could not hang our hat on,” Gardner said of the prospect of firing the officer.
Coyne was placed on paid administrative leave for several weeks while the matter was investigated. His punishment was handed out this past March: Coyne was placed on probationary status, which cut his hourly wage from a rate of $32.82 to $28.02.
Coyne’s performance on the job was also the focus of a federal lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Denver in September 2008. Coyne was one of eight officers with the Grand Junction Police Department and the Mesa County Sheriff’s Department who were named in the lawsuit, which was filed by former Grand Junction resident and business owner James Lange Jr.
Lange, who owned of a local plumbing business, claimed a two-year pattern of harassment by officers, including repeated traffic stops “without legal reason.” Several of the stops involved Coyne, Lange alleged.
A federal judge on Sept. 2 dismissed Coyne from the lawsuit; just one of the officers originally listed in the lawsuit is still accused.