After two mistrials, a Pagosa Springs man who was accused of sex assault on a child will not face a third trial after his case was officially dismissed Friday.
Rodney Keller, 54, was arrested June, 20, 2018, after an alleged sex assault on a child at a former girlfriend’s friend’s house earlier that month in Bayfield.
Two trials in October 2019 and August 2020 resulted in mistrials after juries could not reach a unanimous decision about whether to convict.
In September, prosecutors with the 6th Judicial District Attorney’s Office announced they would try Keller a third time, and a trial was set to begin Monday.
Keller’s defense attorneys, however, moved to disqualify the District Attorney’s Office from further prosecution of Keller after District Attorney Christian Champagne spoke to The Durango Herald and his own staff members about the case.
Before he served in the District Attorney’s Office, Champagne served as a public defender, and had briefly represented Keller in a 2008 case. As a result, Champagne had vowed not to be involved in the prosecution’s most recent case.
The case was then transferred to the 7th Judicial District Attorney’s Office in Montrose.
Seth Ryan, chief deputy district attorney for the 7th Judicial District, who specializes in prosecuting sex offense cases, said his office filed a motion to dismiss the case because it didn’t believe it could secure a guilty verdict.
“I don’t believe we can meet our burden of proof on a third trial,” Ryan said. “(It’s) likely a third trial would result in the same result (a mistrial).”
Ryan said his office reviewed the past trials. He said it appeared DNA evidence presented by prosecutors actually worked in the defense’s favor, and there was nothing in the evidence that showed another trial could result in a guilty verdict.
Ryan said he spoke with the victim and the victim’s family, who were disappointed to learn his office was going to file a motion to dismiss, but they understood the circumstances. The family chose not to attend and speak Friday.
“They don’t want to address the court,” Ryan said.
Sixth Judicial District Judge Todd Norvell, overseeing the case, granted the motion to dismiss.
“The evidence is not clear and convincing,” he said.