Raoul's parents launch legal action against Colorado authorities

Almost a year since Swiss-American boy Raoul Wuethrich was released in the United States after being sued for sexually molesting his sister, the authorities and the media in the state of Colorado are now on trial.

This content was published on September 8, 2000 - 20:44

At a first hearing held on Friday in Denver, the lawyer for Raoul s mother and father claimed that the boy and his parents deserve to be compensated for the violation of their civil and constitutional rights.

The hearing dealt mainly with procedural matters related to depositions and timetable. But those among the accused who work for local agencies announced their intention to file immunity motions on the basis of their position as government officials.

The Wuethrichs are suing them under both Colorado and federal law. Colorado law allows them to seek 150,000 dollars from each person cited in their complaint, while federal law does not set any limit on compensation.

Andreas and Beverly Wuethrich are bringing charges against the District Attorney's office, the sheriff's office and various social services employees. Their lawyer blames those defendants for violating Raoul's rights under the US Constitution.

In particular, he charges that the police did not have a warrant when they arrested the boy at night. He also claims that the charging documents submitted by the DA s office to the court were illegal because the investigating detective was given those documents to sign as blank papers a month before any charges were brought against Raoul.

Asked whether the Colorado authorities are in the habit of violating suspect's rights, the Wuethrichs' lawyer stated that "their conduct in investigating and arresting Raoul is not atypical". Alluding to alleged leaks from the investigators to the press, he added "the conduct with respect to spinning the story was unique because it was motivated by the international attention the case was getting".

The family is also suing two journalists of the Denver Post and one commentator working for a local radio station. The Wuethrichs' lawyer accuses those journalists of defamation of character for reporting unchecked information alleging Raoul's parents were selling pornographic material from their Colorado home, and that Raoul's mother had been previously charged with child abuse.

Raoul now lives in the US again. In July, his American mother left Switzerland, where the family had taken refuge, and moved to Arizona with the boy and his sister Tatiana.

Last November, the sexual assault case against Raoul was dismissed, after the boy had spent 73 days in the hands of the Colorado authorities, who charged him with incest on his half-sister.

Although Raoul's parents recently separated, their lawyer stressed that they have "no plans for divorce at the moment". He said he did not expect their marital problems to have an impact on the case and said that none of the family members attended the hearing on Friday.

by Marie-Christine Bonzom

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