Jessica Ridgeway case: two new charges filed against Austin Sigg

Preliminary hearing closed to media and public

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. - The teen accused of kidnapping and killing 10-year-old Jessica Ridgeway was charged with two new counts in court Wednesday.

Austin Sigg already faced 17 charges in the case.  The charges added Wednesday are for Sexual Assault and Crime of Violence.

In court Wednesday, the judge ordered Sigg's preliminary hearing be closed to the media and the public.  That means we may have to wait many more weeks for more specifics about the evidence in the case. That hearing is now set for Feb. 22.

The judge did not decide on a change of venue request. Prosecutors pointed out that media exposure has been "massive and pervasive."

However, while defense attorneys requested closing the Feb. 22 preliminary hearing, the prosecution opposed closing it.

"It's practically unheard of" for a judge to close a preliminary hearing in Colorado -- even in high-profile cases, said news media attorney Steven Zansberg, who was not present at the hearing.

"Colorado law requires an extremely high showing that has not been met of a clear and present danger to fair trial rights and that no alternative means exist to adequately protect a defendant's fair trial rights," Zansberg said.

Those alternatives to ensure a fair trial include extending jury selection, moving the trial to a different venue or impaneling jurors from a different jurisdiction, Zansberg said.

During the Wednesday hearing, Judge Stephen Munsinger implied that he anticipates the news media will raise objections to closing the preliminary hearing. The late February hearing date leaves more than two months for legal challenges over whether the hearing will remain closed.

Munsinger, prosecutors and defense attorneys agreed that Jefferson County jurors historically have shown they can remain objective and follow the evidence, even in high profile cases.

Sigg appeared attentive and even smiled briefly with his attorney in his first court appearance since being sent to adult jail.

Wednesday we also learned that lab samples were sent to Quantico for analysis by the F.B.I.

Sigg turned himself into police Oct. 23, more than two weeks after Jessica was last seen in Westminster.  Her remains were found five days later in an Arvada open space park.

Sigg faces more than a dozen charges in Jefferson County in the disappearance of the Westminster 5th grader.

Sigg also faces charges for allegedly attempting to murder, kidnap and sexually assault a 22-year-old jogger at Ketner Lake over Memorial Day weekend.

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