ARAPAHOE COUNTY, Colo. — During opening statements Monday, prosecutors in the trial of Robin Niceta began by telling the jury that the case is full of revenge and retaliation, while her defense attorneys said somebody else is to blame.
Niceta, a former Arapahoe County social worker, is accused of filing a false child abuse claim against Aurora City Councilwoman Danielle Jurinsky after the councilwoman criticized former Aurora Police Chief Vanessa Wilson, who was at the time still Aurora's police chief, on a conservative radio talk show. At that time, Niceta and Wilson were dating, and Niceta was working as a social worker.
The day after the radio interview, Niceta made an anonymous report to the Arapahoe County Department of Human Services' Division of Child and Adult Protective Services claiming that she had "personally observed" two incidents that involved Jurinsky allegedly committing child abuse against her child, according to an affidavit. An investigation concluded on Feb. 14, 2022 after 15 days, and found no wrongdoing on Jurinsky's part, according to the affidavit. Niceta resigned from her position on May 4, 2022 after investigators spoke with her about her suspected involvement. Jurinsky told Denver7 she believed the false report was made in retaliation.
In January 2023, Niceta was ordered to pay $3 million in damages to Councilwoman Jurinsky in a civil case that the councilwoman filed against Niceta for libel and slander.
In first day of trial, defense attorneys claim Niceta did not make call alleging child abuse
The jury was selected and seated on Monday, followed by arguments from the prosecution and defense.
Prosecutors played a recording of the phone complaint, in which a caller accused Councilwoman Jurinsky of child abuse. The caller asked to stay anonymous, however the phone number was documented. Prosecutors said that number was linked to Niceta's cell phone number.
Niceta's defense attorneys said that the call was instead placed by Wilson, not Niceta.
Following opening statements, Michelle Dossey took to the witness stand. Dossey was Niceta's boss at the time of the anonymous phone call. Dossey testified that the voice on the phone was Niceta.
Jurinsky also testified Monday, recalling the emotional day she received a call from the Department of Human Services, saying she was being investigated for allegedly abusing her son. Jurinsky's testimony included details of what the case worker recounted to her, including an incorrect home address and age for her son. The case worker assigned to Jurinsky's case later found the claims "unfounded".
Later, Sgt Johnny Turnidge with the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office took the stand, as jurors watched his May 2022 interview with Niceta. During the recording, Turnidge informs Niceta he has data to support the false child abuse claim was made from Niceta's personal cell phone. Niceta maintained that she did not make the call, stating others have access to her phone and passwords, former Chief Wilson being one of them. During the interview, Niceta would not confirm whether she knew for sure Wilson made the call during the interview, but her defense now alleges this is the case.
Court will continue on Tuesday at 8:30 a.m. Her trial is expected to conclude by Wednesday, according to the court docket.
Denver7 Investigates reached out to Niceta's defense team, as well as Wilson, for comment.
Latest on alleged false medical report
In a separate case, Niceta and her mother, Janice Dudley, previously pleaded not guilty on Oct. 27 to several charges against them in connection with an alleged false medical report. They are accused of fabricating medical records to claim Niceta had a brain tumor and was incompetent to stand trial in Colorado for the charges in connection with the false child abuse complaint.
Niceta faces 10 charges, including multiple counts of conspiracy to attempt to influence a public servant, forgery and tampering with physical evidence. Dudley faces four counts of conspiracy to attempt to influence a public servant, tampering with evidence and forgery.
Denver7 | Investigates
Robin Niceta made up medical records, aggressive brain cancer diagnosis: Docs
An indictment released in July revealed information about the medical records Niceta’s previous defense team submitted to the court. The records included a two-page report from a person named Dr. C Marquez from New Mexico Oncology, stating Niceta had an MRI which revealed she had brain cancer, a letter denying her participation in a clinical trial, and four MRI images allegedly showing a brain tumor, the indictment revealed.
According to the indictment, a person claimed to be Dr. Marquez stated the MRIs submitted were of Niceta’s brain. But the 18th Judicial District Attorney's Office was unable to verify the identity of a "Dr. C. Marquez" or locate any person by that name licensed in New Mexico. The DA's Office asked a doctor at Denver Health to separately evaluate Niceta’s medical records. According to the indictment, that doctor claimed the MRI scans appeared to be images pulled from an internet search and were “photoshopped.” Additionally, a Facebook page for New Mexico Oncology was created in January of 2023 and had no activity after that date. A website was also allegedly created in January 2023 for the same supposed clinic, according to the indictment.
The Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office dug deeper into the phone number, website and Facebook page supposedly tied to the New Mexico oncology clinic. According to the indictment, Verizon provided phone records referenced as New Mexico Oncology, which showed the phone was tied to a TracFone account. Verizon records tied to the number showed 91 phone calls in 138 days, of which 42 were allegedly tied to Niceta, the indictment read. A subpoena revealed the TracFone account was tied to a credit card number allegedly owned by Dudley, according to the indictment, and Niceta was an authorized user.
Investigators attempting to verify the physical address of "New Mexico Oncology" found the address was not valid.
Niceta’s former defense team filed a motion on May 11, dropping her as a client once concerns over the validity of the medical records they submitted on her behalf became public.