Court Opinions- Mar 02, 2020

People v. Pratarelli

At trial, Pratarelli and his wife agreed that, consistent with their parenting arrangement, Pratarelli picked their daughter up from daycare on the afternoon of Nov. 7, 2016. Pratarelli testified that later that night he spoke with his wife on the telephone and confronted her about text messages she had exchanged with another man. After the call ended, Pratarelli explained that he “packed [his daughter] up in the car,” believing a drive would help her fall asleep. Once in the car, Pratarelli decided to drive to his wife’s house to continue the confrontation about the texts. 

When he reached his wife’s house, he waited in his car with his daughter asleep in the back seat. His wife testified that, when she arrived home, Pratarelli opened her car door, pushed her against the console, stunned her with a taser, grabbed her by the hair, and dragged her down the driveway. Two neighbors testified that they heard someone screaming, went outside and saw Pratarelli run to his car and drive away.

Back in the car with his still-sleeping daughter, Pratarelli first decided to drive to El Paso, where he testified his sister lived, but ultimately drove to Mexico. While there, Pratarelli and his wife communicated via telephone and email. At trial, his wife testified that she begged Pratarelli to return their daughter, and she “assure[ed] him that [she] would drop all of the charges, and he would have unsupervised visitation.” She testified she offered these concessions to get her daughter back. She explained that Pratarelli eventually said, “okay, we’ll get it in writing,” and the two arranged to meet in Mexico. They did, and his wife then returned to the United States with their daughter. 

After Pratarelli returned to Colorado, he was arrested and charged with second degree kidnapping, use of a stun gun, third degree assault and criminal mischief. These charges all related to Pratarelli’s altercation with his wife. 

Months later, the prosecution filed an amended complaint and information charging Pratarelli with two counts related to his daughter — first degree kidnapping and violation of custody. The prosecution later dismissed the violation of custody charge.

The jury acquitted Pratarelli of criminal mischief, but otherwise convicted him as charged. The district court then sentenced Pratarelli to a total of nine years in prison for the crimes related to his wife and, consecutive to that, eleven years for first degree kidnapping. 

A division of the Court of Appeals considered the meaning of the “forcibly seizes and carries” element in the first degree kidnapping statute, where the defendant was convicted of kidnapping his own child. The division adopted the plain meaning of the words “force” and “forcibly” and concluded that, in order to prove the “forcibly seizes and carries” element of the offense, the prosecution needed to prove that the defendant used (or threatened to use) power, violence or pressure against his daughter in order to seize and carry her, and that he did so against opposition or resistance. The division further concluded that, because no custody order restricted the defendant’s right to the care, custody and control of his child, the evidence was insufficient to show that he forcibly seized and carried his daughter. Because the evidence did not show that the defendant forcibly seized and carried his daughter, the division vacated the first degree kidnapping conviction and sentence.

The division also considered and rejected the defendant’s claim that the district court impaired his ability to investigate mental condition evidence and thus violated his constitutional right to present a defense. The division therefore affirmed the remaining convictions. 

Woodbridge Condominium Association, Inc., v. Lo Viento Blanco, LLC

Lo Viento Blanco, LLC owns an approximate half-acre piece of property in Snowmass Village. Reversing the trial court, a prior division of the Court of Appeals held that Woodbridge Condominium Association, Inc. hadn’t acquired the disputed parcel by adverse possession. On remand, however, the trial court found that Woodbridge is entitled to a prescriptive easement over most of the disputed parcel. 

Lo Viento again appealed, contending that the trial court erred by finding a prescriptive easement and also by delineating the scope of the easement. 

The division addressed whether the requirement that the use be “adverse” in the adverse possession of property context is coextensive with the requirement of adverse use in the prescriptive easement context. While there is overlap, the division concluded that overlap is not complete; claim to exclusive ownership during the prescriptive period is required to show hostile adverse use when a party seeks to acquire title by adverse possession, but it is not required when a party seeks to acquire a prescriptive easement by adverse use. Rather, adverse use in the prescriptive easement context requires only a showing of use made without consent or other authorization of the landowner, such as would justify a tort action for interference with property rights. Applying this rule, the division affirmed the trial court’s conclusion that Woodbridge acquired a prescriptive easement over the disputed parcel. 

The trial court properly applied these principles. Because its underlying findings of historical fact enjoy record support; Lo Viento’s separate contention that its predecessor in title gave Woodbridge permission to use the disputed parcel fails; and the other elements of a prescriptive easement claim aren’t disputed, the division affirmed its conclusion that Woodbridge acquired a prescriptive easement over the disputed parcel. The division also affirmed the trial court’s ruling as to the scope of that easement. 

People in Interest of K.R. 

In this dependency and neglect proceeding, T.K.D. appealed the juvenile court judgment terminating her parent-child legal relationships with S.R. and K.R. and asserts that the record does not demonstrate compliance with the Indian Child Welfare Act, 25 U.S.C. §§ 1901-1963 (2018). 

After receiving additional notice on remand, the Oglala Sioux Tribe sent a letter indicating that the children were eligible for enrollment. Based on the Tribe’s response, the juvenile court determined that ICWA’s protections were triggered. A special division of the Court of Appeals then recertified the appeal and directed the parties to submit supplemental briefs.

After receiving the parties’ briefs and the juvenile court record, the special divisions concluded that the record does not establish whether the children are Indian children under ICWA.

The special division reached this conclusion because the record is silent on whether either parent is a tribal member. As a result, the special division must vacate the termination judgment and remanded the case to the juvenile court. On remand, the court must again determine whether the children are Indian children under ICWA.

If the court determines the children are not Indian children, it may reinstate its judgment terminating T.K.D.’s parental rights. But if the court determines the children are Indian children, it must then comply with ICWA’s mandates.

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