Santa Fe District Attorney’s Office drops sex abuse case after woman’s death

January 25, 2019

The District Attorney’s Office in Santa Fe has dismissed charges against a Madrid man accused of molesting his daughter, citing the fact that she died before the case went to trial as one reason the case couldn’t proceed.

“The state does not doubt the credibility of the victim’s claims,” Senior Trial Prosecutor Martin Maxwell wrote in dismissing the charges recently, “yet prosecutorial ethics require that the State dismiss the case without prejudice when faced with insurmountable evidentiary and constitutional issues.”

“Without prejudice” means the case could be refiled if new evidence comes to light.

A Santa Fe County grand jury charged Geoffrey Stewart, 62, with criminal sexual penetration, criminal sexual contact and bribery of a witness in 2016 after his daughter Alicia Stewart, then in high school, accused him of having sexually abused her when she was between the ages of 3 and 7 years old.

But in 2017, Alicia Stewart, 18, died of an epileptic seizure in her dorm room at Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore.

Her supporters demonstrated outside state District Court in Santa Fe at least once following her death, hoping to convince prosecutors to continue pursuing the charges against her father.

But Maxwell wrote that “despite the efforts and willingness of many to advocate and to testify on behalf of the victim, the State can not overcome hearsay and Sixth Amendment issues.”

The Sixth Amendment guarantees a defendant the right to confront an accuser, among other things.

Geoffrey Stewart’s attorney, Ray Twohig, said Thursday his client has always “strenuously denied” the accusations and was prepared to defend himself against them at trial, but when Alicia Stewart died, Twohig said, the state had very little evidence against Geoffrey Stewart without his daughter’s testimony and what they did have was hearsay.

“The district attorney’s dismissal was an acknowledgement that we were right in our motions to dismiss and motions to keep hearsay out of the case,” Twohig said. “It was the right thing to do.”

Twohig acknowledged that Alicia Stewart’s supporters likely would be “disappointed” by the dismissal.

“But I think the truth of it is they didn’t really know what happened,” Twohig said. They were just supporting their friend and she didn’t really have a good memory of what happened at that age.”

“Given the immensely tragic death of such a talented young woman and survivor, the law unfortunately will not allow the prosecution of this case to move forward,” District Attorney Marco Serna said Thursday. “We pray that she will be at peace after the horrific abuse she reported, and we thank law enforcement for their thorough work in this matter.”

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