Prosecutors, as well as the Denver Post and Colorado media advocacy groups, have filed objections to a Boulder judge closing to the public a hearing for sex assault suspect Aidan Atkinson.
Atkinson, 18, was arrested and charged in November after investigators say he sexually assaulted multiple young women on a party bus in September 2018.
The former star Fairview quarterback is free on a personal recognizance bond and is set for a preliminary hearing on March 31 to determine whether there is probable cause to move the case forward.
But at a February hearing, Atkinson’s attorneys asked that the courtroom be closed for the hearing due to concerns about media coverage.
Boulder District Judge Ingrid Bakke said at the hearing she was considering the closure over concerns for Atkinson, the named victims, and the Fairview High School and Boulder communities.
Bakke set Friday as the deadline for parties to file objections, but did not say when she might issue a ruling. Her office Friday did not comment on a possible timeline or how the ruling would be disseminated.
While the documents in the case are not being released because Atkinson is being tried as a juvenile, Boulder District Attorney Michael Dougherty confirmed Friday his office filed an objection to Bakke closing the courtroom to the public.
The Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition also announced Friday it had filed an objection to closing the hearing along with the Denver Post and the Colorado Press Association.
According to the Freedom of Information Coalition, attorney Steve Zansberg wrote in a brief that, “The press has a strong and legitimate interest in covering the … proceeding for the benefit of readers, viewers and listeners,” adding that the Colorado children’s code establishes a presumption that the public has a right to attend juvenile court proceedings “unless the court determines that it is in the best interest of the child or of the community.”
Denver Post’s breaking news editor Noelle Phillips took to Twitter Friday regarding the objection.
“I know this is a sensitive case and a painful topic,” Phillips wrote. “But the press must attend court proceedings to ensure a fair trial. And our country as a whole has far too long tried to sweep sexual assault cases under the rug.”
The Denver Post is urging a Boulder County judge to allow the press cover a preliminary hearing for a former star high school quarterback accused of sexually assaulting another student. Today, we filed an objection with the courts. https://t.co/IvVYJYY4qb
— Noelle Phillips (@Noelle_Phillips) February 21, 2020
The Denver Post and the Daily Camera are both owned by Media News Group. Zansberg has also represented the Daily Camera in the past.
While the Daily Camera does not typically name juvenile defendants, it is naming Atkinson because of the serious nature of the allegations and the fact that his initial arrest and charges were public record because he was 18 at the time.
Atkinson is charged with three charges of sexual assault, one charge of attempted sexual assault, and five charges of unlawful sexual contact. He is also facing additional charges that were added to the case but have not yet been made public.
According to an arrest affidavit, a student told officials she was on a party bus for homecoming in 2018. She said she became too drunk to stand and sat next to Atkinson, who began to sexually touch her.
The girl said she told Atkinson to stop and that others saw what was happening but did not intervene, and the girl said Atkinson’s behavior continued at a restaurant.