In 2015, a jury found Michael McFadden guilty of sexually assaulting six children.
The 46-year-old man from Grand Junction, Colorado, was sentenced to more than 300 years in prison after the prosecution argued that he gained the trust of families before molesting their children.
“He befriends people who have young kids and then he gets into a situation where he has access to those kids,” prosecutor David Waite told The Daily Sentinel, “and he grooms them pretty heavily.”
Waite added that there were “a couple ugly incidents” at a nearby river dam.
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But despite his conviction, which included a count of being a habitual sex offender against children, McFadden is now a free man — and doesn’t have to publicly register as a sex offender, according to KREX. He argued that his trial violated the state’s speedy trial statutes, which requires certain cases in the state to be completed within six months.
The Colorado Court of Appeals ruled in favor of McFadden in June, according to KKCO. The state’s Supreme Court decided in February that it wouldn’t hear the appeal. That means the lower court’s decision stood and McFadden’s conviction was thrown out.
He was released from jail on Tuesday and cannot be retried, per the court’s ruling.
Mesa County District Attorney Dan Rubinstein wrote in an email to The Daily Sentinel that he is “appalled” that McFadden, who was set for a life behind bars, is now a free man.
“I am appalled that our justice system, in which a jury of the defendant’s peers, which the defendant helped choose, unanimously found him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of sexually offending against six innocent victims,” he wrote, “yet the Court of Appeals vacated the convictions after finding that the trial court’s efforts to protect the defendant’s constitutional rights to a fair trial violate an arbitrary statutory right that the defendant had waived on two prior occasions.”
Rubenstein argued that the defense for McFadden twice waived its client’s right for a speedy trial by asking for a postponement — or continuance — while making additions to the questionnaire that would help find jurors, according to KREX.
During jury selection, the presiding judge noticed the questionnaire brought up McFadden’s past sexual offenses, according to KJCT. The judge, who hadn’t read the questionnaire beforehand, argued that McFadden couldn’t receive a fair trial because of that and sought a third postponement.
McFadden then argued his speedy trial rights.
The ruling from the Court of Appeals said McFadden “cannot be charged with the trial delay” because McFadden “did not agree to or otherwise occasion a necessary continuance.”
Kathi Raley, the victim assistance coordinator at the District Attorney’s Office, said McFadden’s release has frightened his victims and their families.
“I can’t even imagine the terror that these kids are now feeling,” she told WesternSlopeNow. “(I’ve received) several voicemails from mothers of victims who legitimately are fearful for their children and their children’s safety.”
McFadden’s name does not appear on the state’s sex offender registry.