In an opinion published Thursday, Judge Gilbert Román wrote that Yachik’s conviction was overturned and he would have to have a new trial.
Yachik, a former police officer for the now-disbanded Berthoud Police Department, was found guilty of two counts of sexual assault on a child by a jury in 2016, and sentenced to two consecutive 16-year terms in prison.
The charges stem from two incidents in 2010 and 2011 or 2012 when Yachik sexually assaulted and groped his daughter, who was respectively in eighth and ninth grade, according to evidence.
Yachik was also sentenced to three years of probation in 2014 after being convicted of a misdemeanor count of child abuse after his ex-girlfriend sent a video to law enforcement showing him hitting and kicking his daughter.
The case sparked an investigation into the Berthoud Police Department, which was accused of failing to investigate the case. The department was dissolved and the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office took over law enforcement duties in Berthoud.
During Yachik’s trial for sexual abuse, the video was included in evidence and his daughter testified that he had physically abused her almost daily during the time that she lived with him.
“At the prosecutors’ prompting, she detailed for the jury how the defendant would force her to eat hot sauce concoctions, zip tie her hands behind her back and lock her in a dark room for hours, kick her, beat her, choke her, spray her eyes with police department grade pepper spray, deprive her of food and force her to endure extreme exercise without rest,” the opinion said.
The prosecutor asked the jury to “think about what this girl went through, think about what she told you and described” and find Yachik guilty, the opinion said.
In the appeal, Yachik argued that the evidence was irrelevant and highly prejudicial, and encouraged the jury to convict him based on prior misconduct.
The prosecution argued that the testimony was important for helping the jury understand why Yachik’s daughter initially lied to protect him and why she delayed reporting the assaults, the opinion said.
In a legal analysis, Román concluded that the evidence was not permissible because there is no proof that the physical and sexual abuse were linked or that describing the physical abuse was necessary context for the sexual abuse case.
“Reading through the trial transcript, one might easily forget that the defendant was on trial for sexual assault and believe he was also on trial for charges of child abuse,” Román wrote in the opinion. “The prosecutor used this evidence to paint the defendant in a bad light and appeal to the jury’s emotions.”
Because it cannot be proven that the evidence did not influence the verdict, the court reversed Yachik’s conviction and remanded the case for a new trial in which the evidence should be excluded.
A representative from the 8th Judicial District, which prosecuted Yachik, did not respond to a request for comment asking if it plans to appeal the ruling.