Operation Shepherd 2009 was supposed to go smoothly, and at first it appeared that everything was on track. After the first night, seven of nine people were under arrest for failing to register as a sex offender or on warrants for sex crimes in Pueblo.
The next step for us was to share how families were reacting to finding out un-registered sex offenders were living on their streets unbeknownst to them. Most people were shocked, many were afraid for their children's safety. Each expressed outraged that people convicted of sex offense could get away without registering at all.
Then, as I was standing in front of one of the suspects home, his family drove by. It happened by chance, had I left just a few minutes earlier we never would have met; but we did and because of that everything changed.
George Price was arrested Thursday as a part of Operation Shepherd 2009. He had a warrant out for his arrest for failing to register as a sex offender. U.S. Marshalls served that warrant at his place of employment. When they took him in, he tried to explain that the warrant for his arrest was dismissed and that he had proof. The U.S. Marshalls didn't want to hear it, and Price went to jail.
Friday afternoon, just after 1:30 I talked with Price's mother-in-law. She was mad I was on her street covering the story that included her son-in-law. As I talked to her, she explained he was innocent and that his arrest was a mistake. There was something there that didn't sit right, so I asked her if she had proof, and sure enough she did.
She showed me court documents signed and dated from this September dismissing charges against Price for failing to register as a sex offender. Then she shared his story with me. For the last 10 years Price has had to register as a sex offender as part of a plea agreement he made after being charged with sexually assaulting a 17 year old girl. His family's version of the story is that they were making out. The girl bragged about it to her sister who then called the cops. They say the case was he-said-she-said, and in retrospect he probably should have fought it. Instead, every year on his birthday he has to re-register as a sex offender, and every year he did so. Except this year. Price's wife says, he forgot to, but four days later he went in and re-registered just like he was supposed to.
What Price and his family didn't know was, as soon as he didn't re-register a warrant for his arrest was filed for failing to register. A month later, he was pulled over and arrested on that warrant. It took a couple trips in front of a judge, but eventually the charges were dismissed because he had indeed registered. A little more than a month later, Thursday, Price was arrested again on the same charges. His family didn't understand what was going on.
I called District Attorney Bill Thiebaut's office just after 2:00 p.m. and asked how it was possible for a warrant to be issued on Price for failure to register as a sex offender when he was registered for this year. They said they would look into it and have the D.A. call me. At 3:30 I talked to Thiebaut by phone. He was headed out of town to catch a flight and couldn't meet with me personally but wanted to explain what had happened and what his office was doing about it.
Thiebaut said, "A case was filed but when it was discovered that [Price] had finally registered it was dismissed. There was confusion because he did not register on time, so the case was re-filed, a warrant was issued, and he was taken into custody. Today, we are trying to correct the situation by once again dismissing the charges. Had he registered on time, none of this confusion would have occurred."
Had his family not come home when they did, Price could have spent the rest of the weekend behind bars. His family may have even spent money they would never get back, to bail him out. Instead, just after 6:00 p.m. Price was released from the Pueblo Detention Center and he went home.