Boy Wonder

Raoul Wuthrich caught the Jeffco Juvenile Justice System with its pants down.

Finally, the Denver Post was guilty of "poor reporting," Todd says, when it ran a story about the Wuthriches running a video-production company out of their home. He says Post reporters never called him or the Wuthriches for a comment. If they had, he would have been able to show them a memo from the DA's office that detailed what had been found in the Wuthrich home during the September 9 search, "and there was no evidence of a video-production company." The couple was "ambushed" regarding the Web site, and the Swiss television station misinterpreted Beverly's remarks that the site had been in operation.

Todd says the entire case was built on "the big lie" -- or lies. One is that children don't lie about these things, when the latest studies show that 40 percent of the time they do, he says. Another lie was that if there was "oral-genital contact," it was something that children had to have learned from adults, "when in reality, they see the neighborhood cats and dogs doing it all the time."

What made this case different, Todd says, is that the Wuthriches "were willing to resist and say the system is crazy."

James Bludworth
Seen of the crime: Laura Mehmert looks out her window at the former Wuthrich yard.
Brett Amole
Seen of the crime: Laura Mehmert looks out her window at the former Wuthrich yard.

There will be no trial, so evidence regarding the parents' character and actions will never be heard. In November, at a hearing in which he excluded the press but allowed the Swiss ambassador's representative to remain, Judge Zimmerman agreed with the defense that Raoul had been denied his right to a speedy trial. Up to that ruling, the district attorney's office believed that the sixty-day clock guaranteeing a juvenile defendant's right to a speedy trial was ticking only when the juvenile was in a detention facility, not foster homes, but the defense had argued that it began when he was removed from his parents' care. The magistrate in this case had agreed with the prosecution when the defense first brought the issue to her attention. But Zimmerman, while noting that the law on such matters is "obscure" and confusing, said he agreed with the defense attorneys. Raoul was set free.

The implications of the judge's ruling on district attorney's offices across the state, most of whom hold a similar view on what qualifies as detention in terms of the sixty-day time period, are still being sorted out. Russell says other offices have expressed concern that Judge Zimmerman's ruling may affect current and future instances in which children are placed in foster homes rather than detention facilities while discussions about whether to file criminal charges are ongoing. The ruling could set a precedent that forces prosecutors and social workers to move quickly toward a trial instead of resolving the case in some other fashion.

But after announcing that Raoul must be freed, Judge Zimmerman was not quite ready to let it go. He'd sided with Raoul's attorneys on a legal technicality, but as Raoul doodled on a notepad and ate lunch, the judge laid into the press, the Swiss and Raoul's parents.

"This case has been so misconstrued and so misrepresented and apparently so misunderstood, that this court...received correspondence from primarily residents and I presume citizens of the Country of Switzerland that so denigrate and put this court in disrespect that it's to the point of being unconscionable," he says. "And I assume those remarks have all been prompted by the way the European media has misreported, inaccurately reported, and untruthfully reported what's going on in this case and how the juvenile justice system of this state works. I've been doing this work for 25 years. I've never been called the types of things that I've been called."

He noted that the accusation was "not one of fondling," not "one of involvement with another individual concerning urination in public," but "one of cunnilingus," and that if a trial had established Raoul's history of fire-setting and abusing animals, then "this is a child in very serious need of appropriate treatment." And, he said, regardless of "Swiss standards or Swiss morality or Swiss ideas," Raoul's case was "an issue of conduct that is of concern to the government...of this state where the laws of this state are applicable."

Zimmerman had also been irritated by "the apparent carte blanche acceptance of what the parents have to say." The parents had a duty to attend every proceeding held in the case, he said, and "if they fail to do so, they can be found in contempt of court and sanctioned for that....Whatever their motives may have been, they cut and ran to Europe, leaving the child alone here while in detention, and removed from the child any parental support that he may have during the course of the case." Then they "had the gall to misrepresent to the media the underlying facts of this case and to misrepresent why they left this country."

In taking up "the mantra for these parents" and not properly reporting the facts of the case, Zimmerman said, the media, particularly the European media, had attempted to "vilify and demean the juvenile justice system of this state."

For that, Raoul's attorney Vincent Todd says the authorities have only themselves to blame. On November 30, Todd filed a notice to sue Jefferson County and the state on behalf of the Wuthriches. He won't reveal how much he'll ask for in damages. Sargent says Todd is asking in the "hundreds of thousands," claiming such things as illegal search, illegal arrest and defamation. By the way, Todd says, Blick released some of the money it raised to pay the Wuthriches' legal bills, and the rest for Raoul's therapy.

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