Denver Rocky Mountain News

Friday, December 8, 1999

Swiss boy's family plans to file suit

Notice of intent says DA, others violated 11-year-old's rights in abuse investigation

By Sue Lindsay
Denver Rocky Mountain News Staff Writer

A Swiss-American boy accused of incest and his family served notice Tuesday on Jefferson County and the state that they will sue for more than $750,000.

Attorneys for 11-year-old Raoul Wuthrich claim the boy's civil rights were violated when he was arrested Aug. 30 and accused of molesting his 5-year-old sister at the family's home in Evergreen.

He was taken out of bed at night and led off in handcuffs. Raoul spent seven weeks in a juvenile jail, making court appearances in shackles, before a judge ordered him sent to a foster home.

Notices of intent to sue were sent last week to the Jefferson County Board of County Commissioners, District Attorney Dave Thomas, Gov. Bill Owens and Attorney General Ken Salazar.

County and state officials declined to comment.

The Wuthrich family couldn't be reached in Switzerland, and their attorney, Vincent Todd, declined to elaborate on the legal filing.

The case drew international attention until a judge dismissed the charges against him Nov. 10 because authorities failed to prosecute him in a timely fashion.

Wuthrich returned to Switzerland two days later to rejoin his parents.

Andreas and Beverly Wuthrich had fled the United States after the boys arrest, saying they feared authorities would take their other children.

The case infuriated many in Switzerland, where children Raoul's age are almost never imprisoned and where critics doubted whether Raoul could have knowingly abused the girl or whether his actions were merely in play.

The family contends the boy was merely helping his sister urinate in the yard.

Todd said the lawsuit would be filed in federal court charging violations of the boy's civil rights.

According to the notice of claim, the lawsuit would be filed against eight deputy sheriffs, DA Thomas, prosecutor Sergei Thomas, investigators Mike Harris and Cassandra Harris, and Mount View officials Chris Mount and Jerry Sandoval.

Todd charged that the boy was pulled from his bed late at night Aug. 30 and arrested without a warrant. Todd said claims of trespass, battery and false imprisonment will be filed in connection with Raoul's arrest.

The intent to sue also charged that deputy sheriffs and investigators conducted an unlawful search of the Wuthrich home on Sept. 9.

Todd charged that attorney Darby Moses was barred access to the child at Mount View youth detention center on Oct. 17. Mount View officials violated Raoul's right to assistance of counsel, the notice charges.

The notice also charged sheriff's department spokeman Steve Davis and investigators provided false information to reporters about the Wuthrich family.

The notice also charged that investigators tipped media about the Wuthrich's plans to operate an adult video business from their home to damage the family's reputation and divert attention from civil rights violations committed against the family.

The action held the parents "up to ridicule and derision in the international arena," the notice charged.

The notice also charged prosecutor Sergei Thomas made false and defematory statements about the family's failure to post $25,000 bond and sign releases for Raoul's treatment.

© 1999, Denver Publishing Co.