Newspapers stolen after reporting on rape investigation at police chief’s house

A Colorado man has been cited after more than 200 newspapers were stolen from distribution boxes, preventing people from buying The Ouray County Plaindealer on the day it ran a front-page story about a sexual assault investigation at the home of the Ouray city police chief.

Plaindealer said ua note to readers on Thursday that all newspaper boxes in the city of Ouray and all but one in the city of Ridgway were emptied after the latest edition of the weekly newspaper was distributed.

“Whoever did this doesn’t understand that stealing a newspaper doesn’t stop the story,” the note said.

Plaindealer works since 1877 and reports news in the mountain county of Ouray, which is about 165 miles southwest of Colorado Springs and has a population of just over 5,000.

Newspapers, which sell for $1, he said on Thursday that someone took all the newspapers from a dozen distribution boxes.

“From what we know so far, it appears that this person put in four quarters and took all the papers on these shelves,” the paper said. “It’s pretty clear that someone didn’t want the community to read the news this week.”

The stolen edition is presented front page story about the arrest of three people after a 17-year-old girl said she was raped by two different people at least three times at the Ouray Police Chief’s home in May 2023.

The police chief and others were in the house and were sleeping during the attack, the paper said. The chief, Jeff Wood, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Sunday.

The three arrested at the time of the attack were 17, 18 and 19 years old, and one of them is the stepson of the chief of police, writes The Plaindealer.

The article did not name the defendant, now 18, but included her description of what happened that night, based on information from her arrest affidavit.

Ouray County Sheriff’s Office it is stated in the announcement on Friday that the suspect in the newspaper theft “was not a member or relative of the local police force and is not related to the defendants in the recently reported sexual assault.”

Reported sexual assaults are being investigated by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation “to remove any perception of bias and to ensure integrity,” the sheriff’s office said.

City of Ouray said in a statement on Thursday that her police department was “not involved in the investigation” of the sexual assaults and that the department does not conduct personnel investigations.

The sheriff’s office did not name a suspect in the newspaper theft in its statement, but Plaindealer said the office cited Paul Choate, 41, on suspicion of petty theft.

Mr. Choate, a local restaurant owner, returned the stolen newspaper to the Plaindealer office Thursday night with an apology, the paper said.

He admitted to stealing the newspaper because of the front page story, The Plaindealer reported. Mr. Choate could not be reached for comment Sunday.

“The Plaindealer is not disclosing Choate’s relationship to the sexual assault case,” the paper said. “The theft was in no way connected to the three defendants in this case, their families or the Ouray Police Department.”

The Plaindealer said it reprinted 250 copies of the issue before Mr. Choate returned the paper.

After Plaindealer announced the theft, he said, he received more than $2,000 in donations.

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