The trial of Aidan Atkinson, who was arrested on sex assault charges in 2019, began Monday as a jury will be tasked with sorting out the events that took place on a party bus in 2018 where Atkinson is accused of sexually abusing two female students.
Atkinson, 19, was initially arrested on suspicion of three counts of sexual assault, one charge of attempted sexual assault, and five charges of unlawful sexual contact as a juvenile. Because he is a juvenile, the final charges Atkinson is facing in this case have not been made public.
Boulder Chief Trial Deputy Catrina Weigel said during opening arguments that Atkinson, at the time a star quarterback at Fairview, and a group of about 40 other students from both Fairview High and Boulder High rented a party bus to celebrate Fairview’s Homecoming in 2018.
“It was on this party that Aidan Atkinson used the alcohol, the atmosphere, and his popularity amongst the students at Fairview High school to sexually abuse two girls,” Weigel said.
On Sept. 15, 2018, Weigel said a girl who was a junior at Fairview got on the bus intoxicated, and sat next to Atkinson when she got on the bus. Weigel said the girl knew Atkinson as a friend, but was not romantically interested.
But Weigel said what started as Atkinson helping hold the girl up turned into an unwanted sexual advance, as Atkinson began to touch her under her dress and over and under her underwear.
“She’s pushing his hand away, she is clenching her legs together, but he does not stop what he is doing,” Weigel said.
Weigel said it is only when someone else confronted Atkinson that he stopped what he was doing. But Weigel said when the party bus arrived a restaurant in Westminster, Atkinson continued to touch the girl.
Weigel said Atkinson did not touch the girl when they got back on the bus, but instead focused on a new victim, another high school junior.
Weigel said this girl was so intoxicated that other witnesses described her as “limp,” but Weigel said Atkinson groped the girl and then digitally penetrated her.
Weigel said the girl even had bruising on her thighs that her sister noticed the next morning.
While Weigel said that named victim will not be testifying in trial as she now lives out of the country, other witnesses would describe what they saw taking place.
“A lot of people know what happened on that bus in 2018,” Weigel said.
But Atkinson’s defense attorney Lara Mars Baker in her opening arguments said Atkinson was not guilty and that this was a case “about a high school gossip chain, an overreaching and flawed investigation, and… ‘a group of kids all about drama.’”
Baker told the jury that while the prosecution would be bringing in witnesses from the party bus, many of them would be relying on rumor or alcohol-influenced memories that might not tell the whole story.
“The photographic and video evidence will,” Baker said. “There are photos and videos that were taken the night of Sept. 15 (2018), that will tell you a very different story than the one the people just gave you.”
Baker said that Atkinson and the first named victim were “engaged in a consensual make- out session,” while the second named victim was not passed out and that everything was consensual.
Baker also said the case was not reported until 2019, and was then only reported by a girl who said she saw what happened to both students.
“This is group of teenagers who got caught up in being caught up in the drama of the high school quarterback being accused of sexual misconduct,” Baker said.
This case is set to take place over nine days.
Prosecutors later added more charges to the case that had not been made public, but during a remote motions hearing in September attorneys said the charges were related to sexual exploitation allegations that happened at a private residence three months after the alleged party bus incident.
Atkinson is set for a separate five-day trial on those two counts starting April 19.
While the Daily Camera does not typically name juvenile defendants, it is naming Atkinson because of the serious nature of the allegations and the fact that his initial arrest and charges were public record because he was 18 at the time.
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