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Anthony Fitts

Other Colorado Exonerations
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Just before midnight on October 13, 2017, a young woman met four young men at a party in Durango, Colorado. She accepted a ride, expecting to go to Fort Lewis College, a few miles away. Instead, they dropped off one of the men, Joe Zubiate, and then drove around Durango.

Zubiate called the police very early on October 14 and said that one of the other men in the car, 18-year-old James Zink, had stolen money from him. Zubiate gave the police a description of the vehicle, a Toyota Sequoia, and its occupants.

Durango Police found the vehicle near the Durango Skate Park. When they looked inside, they saw the butt of a shotgun and three men and a woman. Police would say the woman had a look of “pure terror” on her face. She was separated from the men and questioned. She told police that she had been forced to have oral and vaginal sex with the men, and that Zink had “racked” his shotgun to intimidate her. Zink, 18-year-old Anthony Fitts, and 21-year-old Devin Bond were arrested and each charged with suspicion of felony sexual assault. Later, the charges were amended. Fitts was charged with nine counts: three for sexual assault; three for use of a weapon in the commission of a violent crime; two for attempted sexual assault; and one assault.

Fitts pled guilty in La Plata County District Court on June 8, 2018 to two counts of attempted sexual assault and one count of second-degree assault. He was sentenced to between 6 and 16 years in prison. Zink pled guilty to the same charges but was sentenced to 14 years in prison.

Bond did not plead guilty, and his trial began in early May 2019. Both Zink and Fitts had been brought from prison to testify for the prosecution. When the woman testified, she said that her sex with Fitts had been consensual.

Sixth Judicial District Attorney Christian Champagne told the Durango Herald that the woman had had a “fundamental misunderstanding” of the events of that night. She had believed Fitts to be guilty, Champagne said, but prosecutors helped her understand that he was “factually innocent.”

In a motion filed May 14, 2019 in La Plata County District Court, Champagne asked that Fitts’s convictions be vacated, both for the sexual assault and for any role he played regarding other conduct inside the vehicle. “Defendant’s conviction is accordingly a manifest injustice. No theory of complicity could be said to apply to Defendant’s failure to prevent the alleged sexual assault after the victim was threatened with a gun in exchange for causing the men to ejaculate.”

Sixth Judicial District Court Judge William Herringer approved the motion that same day and ordered that Fitts be released. Bond’s trial ended in a mistrial on May 21, 2019, with the jury deadlocked.

– Ken Otterbourg

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Posting Date: 6/11/2019
State:Colorado
County:La Plata
Most Serious Crime:Sexual Assault
Additional Convictions:Assault
Reported Crime Date:2017
Convicted:2018
Exonerated:2019
Sentence:6 to 16 years
Race:White
Sex:Male
Age at the date of reported crime:18
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No