A Colorado man sentenced in 2015 to more than 300 years in prison for sexually abusing six children has been freed by a court decision, and prosecutors are barred from retrying him for the crimes.
Michael Tracy McFadden, 46, of Grand Junction, was not eligible for a parole hearing until November 2330, according to data from the Colorado Department of Corrections. Instead, he walked free Tuesday from the Arkansas Valley Correctional Facility, where he was serving his sentence.
McFadden's freedom follows a June ruling by the Colorado Court of Appeals, which found that his right to a speedy trial was violated when the judge in the case granted a continuance, KKCO in Grand Junction reported. Prosecutors appealed that ruling, but the Colorado Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal.
"If you've heard the phrase, 'He got off on a technicality,' this is exactly that situation," Mesa County District Attorney Dan Rubinstein told the news station.
McFadden cannot be retried on the charges and does not have to register as a sex offender, KKCO reported. He had prior convictions for sex offenses, but that conviction was before the registry was established.
"I am completely appalled at this decision," Rubinstein said. "I think the criminal justice system completely failed here."
McFadden was convicted at trial of 19 counts of child sex offenses, including a charge of being a habitual sex offender against children. That history was part of what led to his release, Rubinstein explained.
McFadden's defense team had submitted a jury questionnaire designed to determine whether trial jurors could be fair to their client considering his past, KKCO reported. The judge in the case failed to read the questionnaire until prosecutors and defense lawyers were already halfway through the jury selection process.
The judge decided that McFadden couldn’t receive a fair trial under those circumstances, so he issued a continuance. Even though McFadden’s lawyers had previously sought and received two continuances in the case, they objected to the third and asserted his statutory right to a speedy trial.
The appeals court ruled that he did not get his trial in time. In Colorado, the statute for a speedy trial requires that it take place within six months.
"Because the error here was that he shouldn't have been tried longer than six months from the last time he waived speedy trial, there was no remedy for that, and therefore there is no ability to retry him," Rubinstein told the news station.
The prosecutor was not the only one upset over McFadden's release. Kathi Raley, a victim assistance coordinator at the DA's office, told KREX that she has been in contact almost nonstop with distraught parents.
"Several voicemails from mothers of victims who legitimately are fearful for their children and their children's safety," Raley said. "I can't even imagine the terror that these kids are now feeling."
McFadden was accused at trial of abusing a total of six young boys and girls.
People were also angry on social media, with at least one person hoping that “street justice” gets to McFadden before he finds a new victim. Another Facebook user pointed out that he was not freed because he was not guilty of the crimes of which he was convicted.
Others posted his photo urging people to remember his face since he is not required to register as a sex offender.
"Please share. He will eventually end up back in (Grand Junction)," one woman wrote. "The more people who know, the safer our children will be.
“He is smooth, he is a predator and he offers young women held with housing and childcare, something many women are grateful to have,” she continued. “I know it is an awful subject, but the chances of him reoffending are really high.”
KREX reported that McFadden's whereabouts following his release were unknown.
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Credit: John Spink / John.Spink@ajc.com