Grand Junction, CO — A Colorado district attorney says he’s “appalled” by a criminal justice system that “completely failed” this week, as Michael McFadden, previously convicted of sexually assaulting half a dozen children — for which he was sentenced to over 300 years — is now walking free due to a technicality.
Michael McFadden, 46, was released from Arkansas Valley Correctional Facility in Eastern Colorado on Tuesday. The reason? An appeals court ruled that McFadden’s right to a speedy trial had been violated.
Back in 2015, the Grand Junction man was convicted on 19 counts of violent sexual assault against six children. During pretrial negotiations, the judge in the case granted McFadden and his defense team two continuances. In order to secure those continuances, the defense team agreed to wave McFadden’s speedy trial rights on both occasions.
It was a third delay that would ultimately lead to the man’s release from prison. The defense team had submitted a jury questionnaire that included information about one of McFadden’s prior convictions. The judge determined that the inclusion of the information made it impossible for McFadden to receive a fair trial and ordered another continuance.
The defense lawyers objected to this third delay on the grounds it violated their client’s right to be tried within six months, per Colorado law. The judge overruled the objection due to the fact that it was the defense team’s fault for including the damaging information in the questionnaire.
The trial went forward, and McFadden was found guilty and sentenced to a minimum of 316 years in prison. The seed for the man’s legal appeal, however, had already been planted.
The state’s appellate court justices sided with McFadden, ruling that the trial’s proceeding past the six-month mark was no fault of the defendant, and the court overturned the conviction in June of last year. The Colorado Supreme Court decided on February 12 not to review the case, and on Tuesday a convicted child predator walked free.
“If you’ve heard the phrase, ‘he got off on a technicality,’ this is exactly that situation,” Mesa County District Attorney Dan Rubinstein told local KKCO. It’s a situation he’s none too happy about.
“I am frankly appalled, completely appalled at this decision,” Rubinstein told the outlet. “I think the criminal justice system completely failed here.”
The district attorney told the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel that the system, in this case, has been left “without remedy.” In a statement to local KKTV, he said he puts the blame squarely on the appellate court and that he wants “the community to know what occurred so that they can take action at the next election of court of appeals judges.”
In the same statement, Rubinstein wrote that he’s disgusted that the verdict of McFadden’s jury, which “unanimously found him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of sexually offending against 6 innocent victims,” could be undone by an appeals court simply because of “an arbitrary statutory right that the defendant had waived on two prior occasions.”
Kathi Raley, a victim assistance coordinator at the district attorney’s office, told KREX she’s gotten a flood of calls since word of McFadden’s release got out.
“Several voicemails from mothers of victims who legitimately are fearful for their children and their children’s safety,” Raley said. “I can’t even imagine the terror that these kids are now feeling.”