Newspapers stolen after reporting rape investigation at police chief’s home

A Colorado man was cited after more than 200 newspapers were stolen from distribution boxes, preventing people from buying The Ouray County Plaindealer the day it published a front-page story about a sexual assault investigation at the home. from the Ouray City Police Chief.

The Plaindealer said in a note to readers Thursday that all of the newspaper’s boxes in the city of Ouray and all but one in the city of Ridgway had been emptied after distribution of the latest edition of the weekly.

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

The Plaindealer has been operating since 1877 and news reports in mountainous Ouray County, which is about 165 miles southwest of Colorado Springs and has just over 5,000 residents.

The newspaper, which sells for 1 dollar, said Thursday that someone had taken all the newspapers inside a dozen distribution boxes.

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

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

The police chief and others were in the house and slept during the attacks, the newspaper reported. Chief Jeff Wood did not immediately respond to a request for comment Sunday.

The three people arrested were 17, 18 and 19 years old at the time of the attacks, and one of them is the police chief’s stepson, The Plaindealer reported.

The article did not name the accuser, who is now 18, but included her description of what happened that night, based on information contained in an arrest affidavit.

Ouray County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement Friday that the newspaper theft suspect “was not a member or relative of local law enforcement and was not associated with those charged in the recent reported sexual assault.”

The reported sexual assaults are being investigated by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation “to eliminate any perception of bias and to be beyond reproach,” the sheriff’s office said.

The City of Ouray said in a sentence Thursday that his police department “had not been involved in the investigation” of the sexual assaults and that no personnel investigations were underway at the department.

The sheriff’s office did not name the newspaper theft suspect in its statement, but The plain merchant said the office had cited Paul Choate, 41, on suspicion of petit larceny.

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

He admitted that he had stolen the newspapers for the front page news, The Plaindealer reported. Choate could not be reached for comment Sunday.

“The Plaindealer does not reveal Choate’s connection to the sexual assault case,” the newspaper said. “The robbery was in no way related to the three defendants in the case, their families or the Ouray Police Department.”

The Plaindealer said it had reprinted 250 copies of the edition before Choate returned the papers.

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