Second jury clears former Rifle man of child-sex abuse allegations

A former Rifle barbershop owner left Colorado on Wednesday to start a new life after being cleared of charges of sexual assault on children, his attorney said.

A jury acquitted Michael William Wood late Friday night following a four-day trial. The acquittal came after a July trial that ended when a first jury couldn’t break a 10-2 deadlock in favor of conviction.

Wood was arrested by the Garfield County Sheriff’s Department on Dec. 31, 2008, and he had been jailed since then in lieu of $300,000 bond. His attorney, Ted Hess, said Wood lost his Rifle barbershop, and his home went into foreclosure.

“Literally everything he had is gone, and he’s going to have to start a new life as a barber,” Hess said.

Wood had been accused of inappropriately touching a child Sept. 13, 2008, while baby-sitting, and of having done the same thing to another child as often as once a month between 1994 and 1999.

Hess said that child who was subject of the earlier allegations is the mother of the child involved in the subsequent allegations.

Hess said one issue Wood’s defense team raised was why someone who claimed she had been abused would allow the abuser access to her child.

The defense argued the 2008 incident involved potty training rather than sexual assault. Hess also questioned the mother’s failure to come forward sooner with her own allegations of abuse while under Wood’s care. He said the allegations appear to have been made partly in belated retribution for Wood’s efforts to impose discipline by insisting she do chores and homework.

He said that in the second trial, the defense was able to question the mother’s credibility by pointing to her involvement in an $1,800 theft.

Hess believes the Sheriff’s Department and 9th Judicial District Attorney’s Office bought into “an amazing exploitation of the system” by Wood’s accusers.

Said Anne Kirkpatrick, lead prosecutor in the case, “I disagree with Mr. Hess’s interpretation of the facts. I’m disappointed in the outcome, but I respect the jury’s verdict.”

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