Jerome Wayne Dingerson took the Rocky Mountain News for a ride--literally. Dingerson, owner of the Lakewood-based Bear Creek Horse & Carriage, last month provided holiday hayrides for young News carriers and their families. Unbeknownst to the News, however, he was on probation for sexually assaulting a twelve-year-old girl who once worked for him. Dingerson, 51, was allowed to plead guilty last January to one count of sexual assault on a child (he had been charged with three). He was sentenced to eight years in prison, but the jail time was suspended pending the successful completion of four years' probation. As a condition of that probation, the prosecutor and investigator asked that Dingerson be required to tell his customers of his conviction.
"It was because of the potential danger he poses to children," Lakewood detective Greg Bramblett said of the unusual requirement. "It was something we felt absolutely necessary. Kids are drawn to horses to begin with, and we felt there was a lot of potential for enticement."
So when Bramblett picked up his copy of the tabloid and spied the standard News-puffing photo of Dingerson handling the reins of a hay wagon filled with kids, he had a hunch the felon was breaking the rules. If the paper had known Dingerson was a sex offender, Bramblett reasoned, editors wouldn't have been so eager to splash his mug--at a News-sponsored event--across their pages.
Dingerson's probation officer spotted the same photo, and Dingerson now is being investigated for a possible probation violation. The News acknowledged the problem in a three-inch blurb this past weekend--after being contacted by authorities. Nag, nag, nag. "He was never alone with any kids," News spokeswoman Nancy Murray insisted to her own paper. "He always had an adult supervisor." And now he's back in circulation.
Rocky road ahead: EXTRA!, the newsletter of Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting, offers a juicy explanation for why ABC's 20/20 turns a blind eye to Rocky Flats stories: Executive producer Victor Neufeld is married to a PR flack for the U.S. Council of Energy Awareness, an organization funded by the nuclear industry. Meanwhile, the December 27 Newsweek--with its cover story on "America's Nuclear Secrets...--has rekindled interest across the country in the stifled Rocky Flats grand jurors. Still, when Representative Dan Schaefer--ranking Republican on the House subcommittee currently considering granting the grand jurors immunity in order to testify before Congress--paid a courtesy call on Westword last week, he seemed less interested in the immunity issue than he did in that day's major news revelation, that President Bill Clinton had donated used underwear to charity. Let's hope he washed it first, Schaefer said.
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And let's hope Schaefer's subcommittee gives as much consideration to Rocky Flats' dirty linen. It's about time the department of energy came clean.