District attorney’s office investigates fired deputy
Harper fondled her
during traffic stop
A former Montezuma County Sheriff’s Office deputy is under investigation for alleged sexual abuse that occurred during a traffic stop last November.
Montezuma County court records show former sheriff’s office Sgt. Darrin Harper was called to the 1300 block of Mildred Road on Nov. 1, 2012, to assist with a DUI drug case. Following his investigation, Harper charged, arrested and searched the 52-year-old female driver of the vehicle.
In his written report — which was missing from court records but provided to the Cortez Journal by the defendant — Harper stated that based on his training and experience as a drug-recognition expert, he believed the driver was “under the influence of something.”
The driver claimed in a written complaint she said she filed Jan. 28, 2013, with the Montezuma County Sheriff’s Office, that during her apprehension at the scene, she requested a female officer to search her person. The request wasn’t granted, and the driver stated in her complaint that Harper “fondled my breast and felt my inner thighs.”
Court records show the driver was initially stopped by Montezuma County Sheriff’s Deputy J. Clark at approximately 7:30 p.m. Records show a Cortez Police Department officer was questioning the driver regarding an expired driver’s license when Clark called Harper to the scene. Records show police officials turned the investigation over to Harper upon his arrival.
The driver said that Clark told Harper, his superior officer, that a female officer was needed to conduct the personal patdown, but Harper refused, she said.
“He did this, because he thinks he can get away it,” the woman wrote in her complaint. “I felt so helpless when this was happening. I didn’t know what to do.”
She said that an investigator with the district attorney’s office informed her that the initial complaint got lost in a folder.
“They said it was overlooked, and that’s why nothing was done,” she said.
A MCSO spokesperson said that office could locate no record of the complaint being filed, so an investigation was never launched.
The Montezuma County Sheriff’s Office citizen complaint form states, “All complaints will be investigated and appropriate action taken.”
Upon receiving a citizen’s complaint, MCSO protocols stipulate that the supervisor of the employee would be the first one to address the allegations, and the complaint would forwarded to detectives for an internal investigation if unethical behavior or a policy violation were alleged, the spokesperson said. If unlawful behavior were alleged, the complaint would forwarded to the Colorado Bureau of Investigations, an MCSO spokesperson said.
When Harper’s employment with the sheriff’s office was terminated earlier this month, the woman contacted the Journal and provided a copy of the complaint, which was dated Jan. 28.
District Attorney Will Furse confirmed the charge was dismissed and the citizen complaint was received.
“We will investigate,” said Furse of the complaint.
Furst said he assumes that both his agency and the MCSO would have received the complaint the day it was filed.
Court records reveal the DUI charge was dismissed after the woman’s complaint was lodged against Harper. The district attorney also said the case was not dismissed because of the complaint but because there was no probable cause for a field sobriety test.
According to Montezuma County court records, the woman’s public defender in the DUI charge argued to suppress evidence in the case, citing the charges resulted from an illegal stop, seizure and arrest. The defense stated there was an absence of probable cause or reasonable suspicion to conduct the traffic stop on the night in question.
“A subjective or unarticulated hunch of criminal activity will not support the requirement that reasonable suspicion exist before the investigatory stop is made,” the defense argued in court records.
The sheriff’s office spokesperson, however, told the Journal that the original DUI charge was dismissed without prejudice because the case charged incorrectly by the previous district attorney’s office.
‘THIS IS SCARY’
The alleged victim said she knew others in the community had been “inappropriately” touched by Harper, and she hopes that by coming forward, she will inspire victims to seek justice.
“This is scary,” she said about going public with her story, “but (Harper) doesn’t deserve to be walking the streets.”
“I’m a prisoner now, because of what he did,” she continued. “I’m afraid to leave my house.”
The woman said she now suffers from nightmares that depict Harper retaliating against her, and no one comes to her rescue because of the brotherhood among law enforcement officials.
“It’s just awful,” she said. “My door at home stays locked all day and all night. I’m afraid to even go to the store.”
She said the financial costs associated with her arrest and alleged assault totals several thousand dollars. She was required to undergo mandatory drug testing while the case was pending and subsequently sought counseling services to help manage the anxiety and trauma of the assault.
“If nothing is done about this now, then (Harper) is going to do the same thing again to someone else,” she said.
The Cortez Journal does not reveal the names of alleged sexual assault victims.