Palisade cop’s case dropped

Mesa County prosecutors have moved to dismiss charges against a Palisade police officer, saying they can’t prove the officer harassed an ex-girlfriend with a series of text messages last month.

In a motion to dismiss filed Friday, Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Springer said she can’t show a jury that 26-year-old Stephen Tonello broke the law by committing misdemeanor harassment by telephone.

Springer noted the key elements of the offense in general: When someone with intent to annoy makes a telephone call, or causes the phone to ring repeatedly “with no legitimate purpose of conversation.” Springer said she believes Tonello sent just one text message fitting that criteria.

“As such, there is insufficient information to prove a crime was committed,” she wrote. ” ... It is further worth noting that the victim in the case did not want this case filed.”

Springer said she consulted with the Mesa County Sheriff’s Department deputy who arrested Tonello, and the deputy now agrees there was insufficient evidence of a crime.

Attempts to reach Tonello for comment Saturday were unsuccessful.

Tonello, who had been on unpaid leave from the Palisade Police Department, was arrested Oct. 23 after his ex-girlfriend said he had sent her several text messages and called her, before knocking on her apartment door in the middle of the night, according to Tonello’s arrest affidavit.

The woman said after she called police, Tonello sent her a profane, disparaging text message. He sent another message while deputies were meeting with the woman at her apartment that read, in part, “Now I can finally move on. Thanks. No regrets,” the affidavit said.

Deputies found that Tonello had sent six text messages between 3:45 a.m. and 8 a.m. Tonello, who was contacted at his apartment, admitted to deputies he went to his ex-girlfriend’s apartment and he called her and sent text messages. He said she had not told him not to contact her, the affidavit said.

Palisade Police Chief Carroll Quarles could not be reached for comment Saturday. Quarles has said Tonello is under internal investigation related to the incident.

Tonello was hired in April.


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