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Critchfield granted new trial

by David Cole
| December 18, 2010 8:00 PM

COEUR d'ALENE - Robert Del Critchfield, who was convicted in October of child molestation for fondling two girls at his former home in Coeur d'Alene Place, will get a new trial, a judge has ruled.

First District Court Judge Charles Hosack decided an expert witness for Critchfield should have been allowed to testify about the nature of the police interviews with the nine alleged victims in the case. Critchfield's felony convictions from the October trial of one count of sexual abuse of a child, and one count of lewd conduct with a minor, the more serious of the two counts, have been vacated, said his defense attorney, James Siebe.

Hosack ruled that he made a mistake when he didn't allow psychologist, Gregory Wilson, of Pullman, to take the stand, Siebe said.

The attorney said, "(Hosack) couldn't have said that error wouldn't have made a difference in the trial."

Critchfield, 35, will face trial on five counts, compared with the nine he faced in the fall, one count for each girl, Siebe said.

Critchfield was acquitted on four counts at trial, all sexual abuse of a child. He won't be re-tried on the four.

No new trial date has been set, Siebe said.

Jurors were unable to make a decision on two other counts of sexual abuse and one other count of lewd conduct with a minor.

Some of the girls spent a lot of time at Critchfield's home while his wife was at work, even though the girls repeatedly caused trouble for him there. The girls ranged in age from about 9 to about 14.

Siebe said the police interviews were reviewed by Wilson, who now will testify about what he read in transcripts and heard on recordings from those interviews. He said Wilson's an expert on interviewing sexual abuse victims, and works for law enforcement agencies and prosecutors in north central Idaho and Eastern Washington.

"The interviews were tainted," Siebe said.

Appropriate protocol wasn't followed, and police didn't video record the interviews, he said.

He said officers were "suggestive" in their questions, and that they "coaxed" information from the girls.

"'We (police) know what happened, we just want to ask you a few questions,'" Siebe said, describing those interviews.

Police, he said, shared information they got from some girls with others, and let parents and other family members sit in on the interviews and contribute and "fill in the blanks," and characterized Critchfield as a "bad guy" throughout.

Lewd conduct with a minor carries a possible sentence of up to life in prison, and sexual abuse of a child carries a sentence of up to 25 years.

Critchfield's wife, Angie Critchfield, defended him in her testimony during the trial. She stood by his side throughout. His 14-year-old daughter also testified in his defense. Critchfield testified on his own behalf.

Critchfield described the scene at his home in 2007 and 2008 as one where kids visited constantly and caused trouble while he was studying to become a registered nurse. He was arrested in June 2008, just about the time he was accepted into a college nursing program, he said.

He testified that he liked that the neighborhood kids were coming over to entertain his daughter and son, who were about the same age as the girls.

Like his wife testified, he said he felt sorry for many of the neighborhood kids who didn't have parents home most of the time. His home was a great place to hang out for neighborhood kids, with a swimming pool, trampoline and video games, he said.

Prosecutors questioned his characterization of himself as a nice, tolerant guy who was falsely accused by several wild and vindictive girls.

The prosecutor in the case, Marty Rapp, couldn't be reached immediately for comment on Friday.

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