Crime

Sexual-Assault Conviction of Byron Whitehorn a Victory for Victims

The Ginn Mill was one of four bars where Whitehorn lured a victim into his car.
The Ginn Mill was one of four bars where Whitehorn lured a victim into his car. Scott Lentz
On June 16, a Denver jury found 52-year-old Byron Whitehorn guilty on eight counts of sexual assault involving four women.

Whitehorn had a standard move: He'd show up in LoDo when the bars were emptying out and ask a young woman if she needed a ride home. After she got in his 2005 Audi A4, he'd sexually assault the woman before dropping her off at her destination.

In 2017 and 2018, four victims came forward to tell very similar stories of sexual assaults to the Denver Police Department. The incidents occurred on April 9, 2017, at Lodo's Bar and Grill; on October 14, 2017, at Jackson's Lodo; on January 28, 2018, at Lodo's Bar and Grill; and on December 14, 2018, at the Ginn Mill.
click to enlarge Byron Whitehorn's mug shot. - DENVER DISTRICT ATTORNEY
Byron Whitehorn's mug shot.
Denver District Attorney

In January 2019, with DNA backing the womens' accounts, the Denver District Attorney's Office pressed charges against Whitehorn.

His conviction is a victory for the victims, the DA's office stresses. "I think that when victims see these kind of results in cases, it gives people courage to come forward, and to report. Hopefully the message is: We will listen; we will support you," says Senior Chief Deputy Denver DA Maggie Conboy. "And we will do everything possible to ensure that we can help you have a voice in your case."

Sex-assault cases are unlike other cases, explains Conboy, because they are typically much more private crimes. There are rarely other witnesses, and the crimes are usually committed in spaces without surveillance. Compared to a burglary at a 7-Eleven, for example, where there are multiple eyewitnesses, camera footage and fingerprints, cases of sexual assault often have little evidence.

"It is often an attack on the credibility of the victim when you're talking about sexual-assault cases," Conboy says. "And so it's particularly important for us as prosecutors to do everything we can to support the victim, both within but also outside the courtroom and to provide a voice.

"Just as a general matter, we are fiercely protective of our victims, and in this case, so very proud of all four of them for being willing to stand up and to face the defendant in court. And we are beyond pleased that they received the justice that they so richly deserved," she continues.

"The message that we always want to get out to the community is that we start by believing."

Whitehorn will be sentenced on August 27.
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Gabrielle Bye, a former editorial fellow at Westword, writes about news, politics and food. In her spare time, she loves to enjoy nature and eat locally.
Contact: Gabrielle Bye