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Ouray County Sheriff’s Office identifies man who stole newspapers reporting on alleged rapes at chief's house

Colorado newspapers stolen after it ran a story about rape allegations
Posted at 7:08 PM, Jan 22, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-22 22:44:08-05

OURAY, Colo. — The Ouray County Sheriff’s Office on Monday identified the man who stole nearly all copies of the Ouray County Plaindealer the same day the paper published a story about alleged rapes that occured at the police chief’s home while the chief was sleeping.

The alleged rapes occurred on May 14, 2023, at an underage drinking party at the home.

Paul Choate was issued a summons on Jan. 20 for petty theft, according to the sheriff's office. The department said Choate "is not a member or relative of local law enforcement and not associated with the defendants in the recent reported sexual assault.”

The papers were taken on Thursday morning. By Thursday evening, someone returned a garbage bag worth of papers, and supporters had donated about $2,000 to the paper. The Ouray County Plaindealer identified Choate in an email to subscribers.

In a Facebook post, Choate said his intention was "to bring to light that no details in any victims statements and interviews should be posted without their consent. Specifically, I was appalled by the graphic details reported; I would never want this information to come out about someone I cherish. It was irresponsible to publish this without the consent of the victim and without links to resources."

"The Ouray County Sheriff's Office would like to remind the public that the investigation into the alleged sexual assault has been handled by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI) since the incident was reported to the Sheriff's Office. This was necessary to remove any perception of bias, and to be above reproach," the sheriff's office wrote in the release.

CBI said three people were arrested — Gabriel Trujillo, 20, Ashton Whittington, 18, and a juvenile who was not named. Each faces a charge of sexual assault, a Class 3 felony.

Trujillo and Whittington were booked into the Montrose County Jail and each given a $60,000 cash/surety bond. The juvenile was arrested in Kansas and extradited to Colorado.

The investigation is ongoing, according to CBI. The bureau said the 7th Judicial District Attorney's Office is assisting in the investigation.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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