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Lawyer for Swiss-American boy plans to sue authorities

(AP) -- A lawyer for Raoul Wüthrich, a Swiss-American boy jailed on suspicion of incest and freed when a judge dismissed the charges, has served papers indicating the 11-year-old's family plans to sue authorities in Colorado over his arrest.

This content was published on December 8, 1999 - 08:36

(AP) -- A lawyer for Raoul Wüthrich, a Swiss-American boy jailed on suspicion of incest and freed when a judge dismissed the charges, has served papers indicating the 11-year-old's family plans to sue authorities in Colorado over his arrest.

Vincent Todd, the Wüthrich family's Lakewood attorney, said Tuesday that he filed copies of a notice of claim last week with the district attorney's office, the board of county commissioners and the offices of Colorado Gov. Bill Owens and the state attorney general.

Todd would not discuss details of the potential legal action, but he has said in the past that Raoul's family has grounds to sue Golden, Colorado, county authorities for unlawful arrest and for defamation.

A Denver television station reported that the family plans to sue the sheriff's department and the district attorney's office in Jefferson County as well as the Colorado Department of Youth Corrections.

Raoul was 10 when he was arrested August 30 without a warrant. His lawyers and relatives say he was arrested that night and taken in handcuffs from his family's house in Evergreen, west of Denver.

The arrest followed an investigation that began after a neighbour told officials she saw Raoul sexually touching his 5-year-old half-sister in their yard last May. He was held for more than six weeks at a juvenile detention centre before being moved to foster
care.

The boy was charged with aggravated incest and sexual assault on a child, but a Jefferson County district judge dismissed the charges last month on grounds that his right to a speedy trial was denied. Raoul quickly left the United States and joined his family in Switzerland, where they had fled following his arrest.

The case caused uproar in Switzerland, where children of Raoul's age are almost never imprisoned and where some critics doubted whether Raoul could have knowingly abused the girl. Much of the criticism centred on the boy's nighttime arrest, his handcuffing and the length of his stay in the juvenile justice center.

The boy and his parents have denied the charges, saying he had pulled down his sister's underwear to help her urinate. In court, witnesses said the girl told caseworkers of other incidents in which the boy sexually touched her.

Raoul's mother and stepfather, who have dual citizenship, said they left Colorado while their son was in custody because they had been told their other three children might be taken from them, and they have said they may never return. But Todd said they are
prepared to come back.

"I have spoken to my clients and they have indicated that returning to pursue the lawsuit is not a problem," he said.

Todd said state law gives authorities facing the type of claim he filed 90 days to investigate and try to settle the claim. He said he expected authorities to let the 90-day period expire without responding, at which point he would be free to file suit in
federal court.

In addition to the arrest issue, Todd has said the Wüthriches have grounds to sue for defamation over published reports that cited an unnamed source close to the investigation as saying Raoul's parents, Andreas and Beverly Wüthrich, ran an adult video production company.

The Wüthriches reportedly did register the business name "Ultimate Fantasies," but they have said it was for a Web site they never actually set up and have denied any involvement in an adult-video company.

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