Attorney allegedly threatened tax arrest if victim testified

A defense attorney charged with intimidating a 16-year-old victim in a child prostitution case allegedly threatened to have the girl charged with federal tax evasion if she testified.

By Chris Michlewicz
Posted 10/25/07

A defense attorney charged with intimidating a 16-year-old victim in a child prostitution case allegedly threatened to have the girl charged with …

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Attorney allegedly threatened tax arrest if victim testified

A defense attorney charged with intimidating a 16-year-old victim in a child prostitution case allegedly threatened to have the girl charged with federal tax evasion if she testified.

Posted

A defense attorney charged with intimidating a 16-year-old victim in a child prostitution case allegedly threatened to have the girl charged with federal tax evasion if she testified.

Charles Leidner, 64, a defense attorney representing 51-year-old Parker resident Timothy Houser in a 2006 child prostitution case, was arrested and charged earlier this month with seven counts of intimidating a witness or victim and four counts of tampering with a witness or victim. Prosecutors said Leidner attempted to use "scare tactics" to persuade the young victim not to testify against Houser.

Leidner appeared at a bond hearing Oct. 22 at the Robert A. Christensen Justice Center in Castle Rock. Several attorneys attended the hearing to show support for Leidner, a criminal defense attorney from Denver.

Douglas County Court Judge Susanna Meissner-Cutler scheduled a status hearing at 1:30 p.m. Dec. 3 at the justice center. The judge issued a protection order that prohibits contact between Leidner and the alleged victim.

The girl, now 17, was arrested for prostitution during a police sting and reached a plea agreement with Denver prosecutors last year. She pleaded guilty to lesser charges and agreed to cooperate with investigators.

The alleged harassment by Leidner occurred during a series of phone calls between June 26 and July 11. Leidner allegedly told the victim's mother that, as part of his investigation, he found incriminating evidence on the girl's computer, showing that she committed tax evasion by failing to claim $150,000 in income from prostituting. According to the arrest affidavit, he told her they would use the evidence to charge her with federal tax evasion if she agreed to testify against Houser.

During a phone conversation between Leidner and the victim's mother, Leidner allegedly threatened to "drag [the girl] over the coals, embarrass her and eat her alive" because she was trying to put his "innocent" client in prison for 10-20 years, the affidavit read.

Investigators later recorded a phone call between Leidner and the victim; a transcript of the conversation was included in the arresting document.

When reached by phone, Leidner referred all questions to his attorney, Gary Lozow. Lozow said the arrest affidavit does not support the assertion by the 18th Judicial District that Leidner tampered with a witness. The statements attributed to the victim's mother were not recorded, and her credibility will come into question during future proceedings, he said.

"It is my analysis that Mr. Leidner should not have been charged. Looking at the totality of the evidence they put in the affidavit, and even the totality of all of the evidence, it does not show that he had any intent to tamper with any witness," said Lozow, who has known Leidner for more than 30 years.

Leidner reportedly told the girl during the recorded phone call that she has an outstanding warrant for her arrest because she did not comply with the conditions of her probation. Leidner said he could not charge her with tax evasion because he is a defense attorney, not a district attorney.

He told the 17-year-old that because she is underage, a subpoena would be served to her mother, who lives in Tacoma, Wash. During the recorded call, Leidner said it was up to her and her mother whether they wanted to answer the door when the subpoena was served.

"I can't advise you to not answer the door. All I can say to you is if you do, if your mother does not get served in person with a subpoena, then there is no compulsion for you to be here," Leidner said.

When asked what would happen if she did not testify against Houser, Leidner said the case would be dismissed and he would "forget about everything in a very short period of time."

Leidner denied making any threats or lying to the victim's mother during the previous phone call, but told the victim he was laying out the facts.

"You know defense lawyers are mean to people. We have a reputation of being mean to people," he said. "And if I make you cry, I will be sorry that I make you cry. But if I make you cry, I'll give you a Kleenex."

Leidner also told the victim that there is a restraining order prohibiting her from contacting her mother.

Dea Aragon, investigator for the Douglas County Sheriff's Office, noted in the arrest affidavit that there was no such active restraining order.

Leidner later told senior deputy district attorney Jason Siers, who is prosecuting the Houser case, that he suspected his phone call with the victim was tape recorded because she asked questions about specific topics without him bringing them up. Leidner has not entered a plea to the charges.

Houser allegedly contacted the then-16-year-old girl after she posted her services as an escort on Craig'sList.com. She posed as a 20-year-old under the name Sweet Ashley. Houser's trial was postponed Oct. 1 because of a pending appeal; it was rescheduled for Jan. 5, 2008. Leidner withdrew from the case and Houser now has a new attorney.

A special prosecutor from the Fourth Judicial District Attorney's Office in El Paso County was called in to file the charges and prosecute the case against Leidner.

Contact Chris Michlewicz at 303-663-7170 or cmichlewicz@ccnewspapers.com.

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