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The booking photo of Senon Louis Ramirez.
The booking photo of Senon Louis Ramirez.
17th Judicial District DA's office

Why This Man's Disturbing Sex Act Isn't Sexual Assault in Colorado

The act that earned Senon Louis Ramirez a sentence of twenty years to life after being convicted of sexually assaulting two children is absolutely shocking.

But what's arguably even more unsettling is the fact that what an Adams County jury determined Ramirez had done doesn't qualify as sexual assault under current law according to a recent opinion from the Colorado Court of Appeals. And even 17th Judicial District DA Dave Young, whose office prosecuted Ramirez, sees the logic of the decision.

In Young's words, "It's hard to argue with what the Court of Appeals has done."

Not that Young is ready to accept the judgment and move on. He's calling for legislation that will close a loophole that, in his view, has resulted in Ramirez receiving far less punishment than he deserves.

Explaining why requires a summary of Ramirez's arrest affidavit. To understate the situation considerably, the details will disturb readers.

In July 2014, the document reveals that the Thornton Police Department was contacted by a representative of Adams County Social Services in regard to assertions made against Ramirez related to a four-year-old and a six-year-old for whom he had previously served as a foster parent. The children subsequently told investigators that he had squeezed "milk" from his "private parts" onto their hands and made them "drink" it — by licking the semen he had ejaculated into their palms.

Dave Young is the DA for the 17th Judicial District.
Dave Young is the DA for the 17th Judicial District.
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Young's office responded to this report by charging Ramirez with sexual assault on a child, sexual assault on a child by a person in a position of trust, and indecent exposure. Ramirez was convicted in 2016 and placed on the Colorado Bureau of Investigation's list of registered sex offenders. But Ramirez appealed based on the language used for sexual assault in state statutes.

The majority ruling by the Colorado Court of Appeals, issued in September, notes that "sexual contact" is characterized as "the knowing touching of the victim’s intimate parts by the actor, or of the actor’s intimate parts by the victim, or the knowing touching of the clothing covering the immediate area of the victim’s or actor’s intimate parts if that sexual contact is for the purposes of sexual arousal, gratification, or abuse."

The statute further defines "intimate parts" as "the external genitalia or the perineum or the anus or the buttocks or the pubes or the breast of any person."

DA Young acknowledges that there was no evidence presented in court about the children "touching an intimate part," but his team argued that "it was close enough. Obviously, with semen, it doesn't get much closer to an intimate part than that."

One dissenting judge agreed with that theory. But two others came to a different conclusion, in part because of previous rulings. An excerpt reads in part: "A similar argument was rejected by the Wisconsin Court of Appeals in a case decided before Wisconsin’s legislature that expanded the definition of 'sexual contact' to include the '[i]ntentional penile ejaculation...by the defendant'.... The court held that the legislature 'simply failed to include
semen ejaculation under the definition of sexual contact' and, therefore, the ejaculation by the defendant onto the victim’s stomach did not constitute sexual contact within the meaning of Wisconsin’s statute."

The decision has repercussions beyond Ramirez, Young points out. "I think in the past, if we had a case like this where we filed sexual-assault counts, it probably led to a plea agreement," he says. "And if the case was never appealed, it flew under the radar. But this case went to trial and went to appeal — and that's when it came to light that we don't have a statute covering it."

As a result, he goes on, charging a suspect with sexual assault under roughly equivalent circumstances is no longer possible: "We now have specific guidance on the interpretation of the statute. So we don't have the option to file now."

At a post-ruling meeting of the Colorado District Attorneys' Council, the Ramirez matter was a big topic of discussion, Young reveals, and he maintains that "the other 21 elected DAs in the state" agree with him that a legislative solution is needed. The organization is currently in the process of finding a legislator willing to carry a bill stating that "it would be sexual assault if someone excretes on a person for the intention of sexual gratification if it is non-consensual," he adds.

In the meantime, Ramirez remains on the hook for his indecent-exposure conviction, but his punishment will be much less severe than it previously had been. Colorado law identifies indecent exposure as a class 1 misdemeanor that can result in up to eighteen months in custody and a $5,000 fine.

Young understands that talking about this subject makes many people uncomfortable. But he feels silence would be worse.

"I want to get the message out there that we need a fix," he says, "so the floodgates don't open and people get away with doing something like this and not be held accountable. Because indecent exposure doesn't fit this crime."

Click to access the Colorado Court of Appeals ruling, as well as Senon Louis Ramirez's arrest affidavit.

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