SUBLETTE COUNTY – A 75-year-old man faces a May 10 jury trial on the felony charge of taking immoral and immodest liberties with a girl younger than 17, but before that his attorney wants to question the minor girl’s competency as a witness.
Donald K. Woodward, of Marbleton, was charged in July 2020 with third-degree sexual abuse of a minor and pleaded not guilty on Dec. 3 in 9th District Court. The girl is from another county and visited Woodward, a family friend, to celebrate her birthday, according to court records. Since being charged, Woodward was stricken badly with COVID-19 and required surgeries after a broken hip and a fall injuring his head, records show.
His attorney Geoffrey Phillips had requested continuances of several months before Woodward was considered able to appear in court. Woodward’s arraignment in 9th District Court was rescheduled twice, after he and his “extremely ill” family contracted COVID-19, according to court records.
On Dec. 23, Phillips filed a motion for discovery of any records, statements, papers, recordings and other materials being held by prosecutor Sublette County Deputy Attorney Clayton Melinkovich. District Judge Marv Tyler approved the motion “absent objection” from the Sublette County Attorney’s Office.
On Jan. 7, Judge Tyler ordered a 30-minute hearing on the matter of witness statements to take place during the April 9 pretrial conference.
Melinkovich also filed notice on Jan. 15 of his intent to use evidence of other related crimes or acts under Rule 404(b) about conversations that took place on or around the same day, according to court records. Judge Tyler set a hearing for Feb. 24 at 2:30 p.m.
Woodward’s attorney also requested a witness competency hearing for the minor girl, which Judge Tyler scheduled for the same day in a closed hearing.
Sublette County Detective Travis Lanning’s affidavit said the girl was “very adamant about coming home” and said Woodward had showed her his genital area and showered with her, it says. The girl said Woodward did not touch her. She was upset and felt sick and told her parents, it says.
The pretrial conference will be on April 9. The maximum penalty for third-degree sexual abuse of a minor is 15 years in prison, a $10,000 fine or both.