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Adams County DA hopeful General Assembly will accept definition change in sexual assault statute

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Posted at 12:51 PM, Dec 17, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-17 14:57:02-05

ADAMS COUNTY, Colo. — A small addition to the Colorado legislature’s definition of "intimate parts" under sexual assault could make a big impact for people affected by those cases.

Adams County District Attorney Dave Young is helping to lead the charge on new legislation that would slightly alter the definition of "intimate parts" to include bodily fluids.

This proposal comes in the wake of a man whose sexual assault convictions were vacated after the Colorado Court of Appeals ruled that he hadn’t touched his victim, and therefore, the crime didn’t constitute as sexual assault.

Senon Louis Ramirez was convicted in 2016 of sexual assault on a child by a person in a position of trust and sexual assault on a child after forcing two foster children — 4 and 6 years old — to drink his semen after ejaculating in their hands. He was sentenced to prison for 20 years to life, plus one year of jail for indecent exposure.

In September 2018, the Court of Appeals ruled that semen is not included in the definition of a person’s “intimate parts,” and under Colorado law, what Ramirez was accused of was not sexual assault.

His conviction of indecent exposure still held.

Young said he knew this could be an issue at the beginning of this case.

“But we knew that if that’s not a sexual assault, we don’t know what is,” he said. “So, we filed the case and it went all the way to trial and the jury convicted him. The jury agreed with us that it met the definitions of sexual contact and sexual gratification. Everything was there.”

That’s when the Court of Appeals stepped in. The court said the man’s actions was “reprehensible,” but it did not have the authority to rewrite the statute to criminalize this sort of conduct.

Young said that’s why a legislative fix is necessary.

“Any person who reads the facts of this case would agree that this should be a sexual assault on a child crime and the punishment should fit the crime,” Young said. “The Colorado legislature should pass new legislation that assures an offender will be held appropriately accountable if something like this happens again… I think any reasonable person would think that if somebody ejaculates on someone else without their consent, especially a child, that should absolutely be a sexual assault.”

Colorado’s 22 elected district attorneys discussed this case at a monthly meeting and unanimously decided to pursue a legislative fix.

Colorado District Attorneys' Council’s Tom Raynes is working on that, Young said.

The change wouldn’t redefine sexual assault, but rather the law’s definition of “intimate parts.” Right now, that includes external genitalia, buttocks, breasts and other body parts, Young said. He said the DAs hope to add bodily fluids to that list.

“I can’t imagine anyone but a sex offender objecting to that,” Young said. “I don’t see the legislation not going through.”

Young said he’s hopeful the Colorado General Assembly will pass the legislation but knows there may be some challenges about the language of bodily fluids.

Should it pass in 2019, it could go into law as early as March, Young said. He said he hopes for the change sooner than later so other criminals don’t get similar ideas.

“Thankfully, this is such a rare circumstance,” he said. “But it happened. And if it happened, there’s a possibility that it will happen again.”