Saturday, July 20

Newspapers stolen after covering rape investigation at police chief’s home

Newspapers stolen after covering rape investigation at police chief’s home

Colorado man cited after more than 200 newspapers were stolen from distribution boxes, preventing people from buying The Ouray County Plaindealer on the day it published a front-page story about a sexual assault investigation at the home of the city of Ouray police chief.

The Plaindealer said in a note to readers As of Thursday, all of the paper’s coffers in the town of Ouray and all but one in the town of Ridgway had been emptied after the latest edition of the weekly was distributed.

“Anyone who has done this does not understand that stealing newspapers does not end a story,” the memo said.

The Plaindealer works since 1877 and reporting on current events in mountainous Ouray County, located about 165 miles southwest of Colorado Springs and home to just over 5,000 residents.

The newspaper, sold for 1 dollar, said Thursday that someone had taken all the newspapers from a dozen distribution boxes.

“From what we know so far, it appears that this person put four coins in and took all the newspapers from these shelves,” the newspaper said. “Clearly someone didn’t want the community to read the news this week.”

The stolen edition presented a story on the front page regarding the arrest of three people after a 17-year-old girl reported being raped at least three times by two different people at the Ouray police chief’s home in May 2023.

The police chief and others were home and sleeping at the time of the attacks, the newspaper reported. The chief, Jeff Wood, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Sunday.

The three people arrested were 17, 18 and 19 years old at the time of the attacks, and one of them is the police chief’s stepson, The Plaindealer reported.

The article does not name the accuser, who is now 18, but it does include her description of what happened that night, based on information in an arrest affidavit.

Ouray County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement As of Friday, the suspect in the newspaper theft was “not a member or relative of local law enforcement and was not associated with the defendants in the recent reported sexual assault.”

The reported sexual assaults are being investigated by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation “to eliminate any perception of bias and be beyond reproach,” the sheriff’s office said.

The City of Ouray said in a report As of Thursday, his police department had “not been involved in the investigation” into the sexual assaults and that no personnel investigation was underway within the department.

The sheriff’s office did not name the newspaper theft suspect in its statement, but The plain merchant said the office cited Paul Choate, 41, on suspicion of petit larceny.

Mr. Choate, a local restaurant owner, returned the stolen newspapers to the Plaindealer’s office Thursday evening with an apology, the newspaper said.

He admitted he stole the newspapers because of the front-page story, The Plaindealer reported. Mr. Choate could not be reached for comment on Sunday.

“The Plaindealer does not reveal Choate’s relationship to the sexual assault case,” the newspaper said. “The theft has no connection to the three defendants in this case, their families, or the Ouray Police Department.”

The Plaindealer said it reprinted 250 copies of the edition before Mr. Choate returned the papers.

After the Plaindealer announced the theft, he reported receiving more than $2,000 in donations.