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Pagosan found not guilty of burglary, theft

Angelo Roger Rivard, 24, of Pagosa Springs, was found not guilty on four counts of burglary and four counts of theft following a jury trial that ended Wednesday afternoon.

Rivard was suspected in a string of burglaries that occurred in March 2011, along with Dominique Swanson, 28, who took a plea deal earlier this year and was sentenced to 10 years probation.

Rivard’s trial began Monday afternoon with opening statements by Deputy District Attorney Alex Lowe and Rivard’s attorney, Brian Schowalter.

In beginning, Lowe called the burglaries a weeklong crime spree in which Wolf Creek Anglers, the San Juan Historical Society and Museum, The Outfitter and one residence were burglarized, with items stolen from each.

Lowe spoke of a dog bite to Swanson the morning after The Outfitter was broken into that was believed to have actually been a cut from broken glass and for which Rivard took Swanson to the hospital, as well as items found and confessions on two different occasions.

For his opening argument, Schowalter cast blame on the owner of the home where some  stolen items were found — Toby Martinez — suggesting that he or his brother Mario acted with Swanson.

Schowalter also asked the jury to judge the credibility of several witnesses in the case, while listening closely to alibi witnesses.

Then, after more than a day of witness and expert testimony, the attorneys were up to provide closing statements.

In his closing statement, Lowe asked the jury to consider the evidence before them, stating that the only disputed fact in the case was whether or not Rivard was responsible for the burglaries and thefts.

Lowe recalled confessions that were reportedly given by Rivard on two separate occasions, and alleged several of the involved parties, such as Toby and Mario Martinez, were covering for one another.

Lowe also pointed to Reva Shepard, Rivard’s girlfriend, who changed her testimony on the stand from what she offered when she was questioned by investigators (indicating she was protecting Rivard), and timelines given by several parties that did not match.

Lowe also reminded the jury that Swanson’s DNA was found at the museum.

Schowalter began his closing statement by stating that, if Rivard were guilty of anything, it would be of protecting Swanson, his best friend.

“This is a very weak case,” Schowalter said. “This is an extremely weak case.”

Schowalter likened the prosecution’s case to puzzles, in which the pieces don’t fit, but are jammed together anyway.

Schowalter again cast doubt on Toby Martinez, pointing to stolen items found in the man’s bedroom, and told the jury the testimony of Martinez was not credible.

Additionally, Schowalter questioned the credibility of a number of other witnesses, such as those who testified to Rivard’s confessions, and stated that inconsistencies in the stories told by those around Rivard were likely inconsistent because they were not rehearsed.

During the closing statement, Lowe objected twice, once to Schowalter telling the jury of preliminary hearing testimony that was not in evidence, and another time for Schowalter’s calling testimony “lies,” with Lyman ruling that the evidence was left for the jury to sort out, but asking that Schowalter not call testimony “lies.”

“Nobody knows exactly what happened,” Schowalter said, again calling it a weak case and later adding, “Angelo Rivard is not guilty. There’s just not enough evidence.”

In his rebuttal, Lowe called it frustrating that it was the jury’s job to determine credibility and yet Schowalter opined on the matter, and added that the words of the attorneys did not constitute evidence.

Lowe then discussed other evidence called into question by Schowalter, as well as indicating that a search warrant was never performed at the residences of Swanson and Rivard because information indicated the stolen items were no longer in Archuleta County.

Lowe then stated that it was not a weak case, but one in which the dots had to be connected.

The jury deliberated on the case for less than two hours before returning with the acquittal.

Upon the reading of the verdict, Rivard and his supporters were emotional, with Rivard hugging Schowalter multiple times.

randi@pagosasun.com

This story was posted on November 29, 2012.