News 5 Guardians

Jan 7, 2014 9:26 PM by Eric Ross

News 5 Guardians: What happened to evidence in Cañon City council member's trial?

We are getting answers about why evidence in the criminal case against Cañon City Council Member Michael Katchmar never made it to trial.

Katchmar and Thomas Lockhart were arrested and charged with assaulting an elderly couple at a downtown wine tasting that took place in May 2013.

In December, the jury found Katchmar guilty of harassment, but not the disorderly conduct and assault charges the prosecution was seeking.

News 5 learned Katchmar provided a recorded statement to police about what happened on the night in question. The prosecution wanted to use that recording as evidence, but couldn't find it.

According to police, Katchmar's audio statement was never lost. It was simply mislabeled on a disc that police provided the prosecution.

Here's what happened:

What started as a verbal dispute between Katchmar and an elderly couple, ended with a physical altercation.

Reports indicate the dispute began when Robert Martin, 70, and his wife, Margene, 65, asked Katchmar if he or any of the council members were going to do anything about the mosquitos in town during the wine-tasting event downtown.

The couple alleges that on the way out to their car, they were attacked by Katchmar and Lockhart.

While there was enough evidence to charge Lockhart and Katchmar with assault, when it came time for court, not all the evidence was presented.

"All of the recordings in connection with this case were sent by the Cañon City Police Department to the special prosecutor's office," Chief Paul Schultz said.

Although the crime happened in Fremont County, the case was handed over to the Pueblo County District Attorney's Office because of a possible conflict of interest between Fremont County District Attorney Tom LeDoux and Katchmar.

The prosecutor's office in Pueblo County requested copies of all taped recordings in the criminal investigation, but asked that Michael Katchmar's recordings be placed on a second, separate disc.

"The recording in question did not make it onto the second disc," Schultz explained. "But again, I want to stress to you it was on the first disc provided to the prosecution. There is no missing evidence in the case."

Chief Schultz admits it was a labeling error that should not have happened.

"We've done a very thorough audit about what has occurred here and we have instituted new policies and procedures to ensure this doesn't happen again," Schultz said.

The police department will now require officers to thoroughly label every recording put onto a disc so the prosecutor can easily find it.

"Some of the booking paperwork with the evidence was not clear enough to explain where that recording was," Schultz said. "It was on the first disc and the prosecutor did have that information."

Katchmar is scheduled to be sentenced on March 12 for the harassment charge.

Lockhart pleaded guilty to third-degree assault of an at-risk person which is a class 6 felony, along with assault in the third-degree, a class 1 misdemeanor.

Lockhart will be sentenced on March 12 as well.

 

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