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People v. Aryee

Court of Appeals of Colorado, Fifth Division

July 31, 2014

The People of the State of Colorado, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
Isaac K. Aryee, Defendant-Appellant

Adams County District Court No. 10CR3265. Honorable C. Vincent Phelps, Judge.

John W. Suthers, Attorney General, Jacob R. Lofgren, Assistant Attorney General, Denver, Colorado, for Plaintiff-Appellee.

Douglas K. Wilson, Colorado State Public Defender, Andrea R. Gammell, Deputy State Public Defender, Denver, Colorado, for Defendant-Appellant.

Hawthorne and J. Jones, JJ., concur.

OPINION

ASHBY, JUDGE.

Page 919

[¶1] Defendant, Isaac K. Aryee, appeals from the trial court's judgment entered on jury verdicts finding him guilty of various sexual assault charges. We affirm.

[¶2] This case asks us to decide, apparently for the first time, what is required under section 20-1-107, C.R.S. 2013, when a district attorney seeks her own disqualification. We conclude that the statute does not require the district attorney to make any showing. The filing of the motion seeking disqualification is all that is required.

I. Background

[¶3] Aryee was the pastor of a church he ran out of his home. The victim, K.W., and her family became friends with Aryee when they moved to Denver and began attending his church. K.W. sometimes babysat Aryee's children and helped with the housework.

[¶4] In 2008, Aryee and K.W. engaged in sexual intercourse, which resulted in a child. Aryee claims the acts were consensual and only occurred three times. K.W. claims that Aryee forced himself on her nine or more times.

[¶5] The People charged Aryee with one count of aggravated sexual assault on a child; one count of sexual assault on a child by one in a position of trust, victim under fifteen years old; two counts of sexual assault on a child by one in a position of trust, victim fifteen to eighteen years old; and one count of sexual assault on a child by one in a position of trust as part of a pattern of abuse. A jury found Aryee guilty as charged. The trial court sentenced him to an indeterminate term of thirty years to life in the custody of the Department of Corrections, plus lifetime parole.

II. Disqualification of a District Attorney's Office

[¶6] Aryee contends that the trial court erred by disqualifying the Adams County District Attorney's Office and appointing two Denver County District Attorneys as special prosecutors. We disagree.

Page 920

[¶7] We review the trial court's decision to disqualify a district attorney for an abuse of discretion. See People v. Loper, 241 P.3d 543, 546 (Colo. 2010). The court abuses its discretion where its decision is manifestly arbitrary, unreasonable, or unfair, or is based on a misapprehension of the law. Id.; People v. Chavez, 190 P.3d 760, 765 (Colo.App. 2007).

[¶8] To resolve Aryee's contention, we must interpret section 20-1-107. We review an issue of statutory interpretation de novo. A.S. v. People, 312 P.3d 168, 2013 CO 63, ¶ 10; People v. Perez, 238 P.3d 665, 669 (Colo. 2010). In doing so, our primary goal is to ascertain and give effect to the legislative intent. Perez, 238 P.3d at 669. We do this by first looking to the plain language of the statute, giving words and phrases their commonly understood meanings. Id. If the language is clear and unambiguous, we apply it as written. Bostelman v. People, 162 P.3d 686, 690 (Colo. 2007). Only if that language is ambiguous do we turn to extrinsic aids of construction. Id.

[¶9] As relevant here, section 20-1-107(2) provides:

A district attorney may only be disqualified in a particular case at the request of the district attorney or upon a showing that the district attorney has a personal or financial interest or finds special circumstances that would render it unlikely that the defendant would receive a fair trial. . . . The motion shall not be granted unless requested by the district attorney or unless the court finds that the district attorney has a personal or financial interest or special circumstances exist that would render it unlikely that the defendant would receive a fair trial.

If the court disqualifies the district attorney, it should appoint a special prosecutor from a different judicial district to handle the case. See § 20-1-107(4).

[¶10] In 2009, Aryee was charged by the Denver District Attorney's Office. Just over one year later, by agreement of the parties, the case was transferred to Adams County. In a written motion, the Adams County District Attorney's Office requested that the Denver District Attorney's Office be appointed as special prosecutors under section 20-1-107. After a hearing, the court granted the motion. The two district attorneys who had been responsible for the case in Denver County were appointed as special prosecutors in Adams County to continue prosecuting the case.

[¶11] Aryee argues that the court should not have disqualified the Adams County District Attorney's Office because it did not show that it had an interest contrary to its duty to seek justice. We conclude, however, that under the plain ...


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