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At the conclusion of the March 30 motions hearing on charges filed against Chaffee Childcare Initiative Executive Director Amy Lovato and The Schoolhouse Director Roberta Rodriguez, 11th Judicial District Judge Brian Green denied the motions to dismiss both criminal charges. But this appears now to be only another chapter in the saga that has rocked Chaffee County and thrown the county’s childcare situation into a crisis.

Chaffee County Judicial Facility at 142 Crestone in Salida is the home of the 11th District Court. Merrell Bergin photo

After District Attorney Linda Stanley’s office shifted what the prosecution said constituted “child abuse”, the Judge stipulated prosecutors prepare a “Bill of Particulars specifying exactly what the theory of the prosecution’s case is”. His request, he elaborated, was to lay it out in one record, rather than having to go through the entire charging document to gather what Lovato and Rodriguez were being accused of doing.

This, in and of itself, is apparently an unusual move. When a case comes before a District Court, the charging documents normally lay out the charge, and charge support; who, where, when, and how behind the charges. Per the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution, that basic charging information is legally required, so that the defendant can prepare a defense.

As a case moves toward trial, what is referred to as discovery documents are shared, again so the defendants know what they are being accused of doing and what evidence exists against them.

But the document supplied to the court by Deputy District Attorney Joanne Morando one day prior to the Thursday deadline by the 11th Judicial District Attorney’s office appears to spend more than 80 percent of the text telling the court why the prosecution shouldn’t have to provide that information and lecturing the judge on what a bill of particulars is.

In fact, on page one of the Bill of Particulars, the DA’s office argues that:

  • “A bill of particulars is unnecessary when the charging documents adequately advise the defendant of the charges against him, allow him to prepare a defense, and avoid double jeopardy …
  • The basic purpose of a bill of particulars is to define more specifically the offense charged and not to disclose in detail the evidence upon which the prosecution expects to rely … Indeed, the People are not required to provide, in detail, the evidence upon which the prosecution expects to rely or the theories of the prosecution’s case …
  • Moreover, a Bill of Particulars is not to be used as a tool for discovery …”

Then on page two, the prosecution announces it will comply. But it still provides no information regarding what constitutes child abuse, other than a reiteration of “failure to report.”

Lovato’s Defense Attorney Jason Flores-Williams said he was sufficiently alarmed as to take the unusual step of issuing a written response, again asking for clarity. “Ms. Lovato is not adequately advised of the Child Abuse accusation so that she can prepare her defense. Specifically, she is not advised of the date, incident, nor injury that gave rise to being charged with C.R.S. §18-6-401(7)(b)(II).”

He ends his supplemental response by writing “The Bill of Particulars filed April 13, 2023 fails to comply with the Court’s order as well as Ms. Lovato’s due process rights as to fair notice in conjunction with her Sixth Amendment preparatory and fair trial rights.”

The timeline established by the Judge on March 30, 2023:

Bill of Particulars due — April 14

Status conference via Webex — 3:00 p.m. May 2

Jury Instructions prepared — 7 days prior to trial

Jury Trial — June 5 and 6

It should be pointed out that DA Stanley’s Office was just sanctioned in Fremont County by Trial Judge Kaitlin Turner for a pattern of behavior of not providing discovery documents: 11th Judicial District Attorney Linda Stanley Sanctioned – by Jan Wondra – Ark Valley Voice

Editor’s notes: The DA’s Bill of Particulars was filed: April 13, 2023 10:22 a.m. FILING ID: 90954C733CB67, CASE NUMBER: 2023M3. The Defense Attorney supplement was filed Friday, April 14.