Counselor gets probation for sex assault
GARFIELD COUNTY ” Charalene Dawn Bera was sentenced to supervised probation for 10 years to life after being convicted of having sex with teenage boys at the former Emily Griffith Center in Rifle.
Bera, a former child care counselor at the center, maintains her innocence and said outside the courtroom she plans to appeal the case.
She dabbed her eyes with a tissue and covered her face with her hand a couple of times while several family members and friends spoke on her behalf. They said Bera has a tendency to help people, to protect people and to contribute to her family. They said prison would not improve anything and asked for probation.
“My daughter has a very big heart,” said her mother, Judy Richards. “I know in my heart my daughter didn’t do it.”
She said she’s $70,000 in debt because she believes in her daughter.
An aunt and uncle said they traveled from Iowa to say what a good person Bera is and how they’d trust her with their kids. None of the boys who testified against Bera or their family members came to court.
Bera said she doesn’t blame the troubled boys who testified against her for their lies, and telling authorities what they wanted to hear.
“I would never hurt anybody, ever,” Bera said. “To be taken to jail ” I would be hurting everyone because I wouldn’t be able to take care of my grandmother, or the horses.”
“All I was doing was helping because I thought I could change the world,” she added later. “I didn’t know boys could lie and deceive.”
Judge Daniel Petre compared what he’s learned of Bera to a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde character.
“Sex offender intensive supervised probation, because it is so disruptive and so intensive, protects the public, provides deterrence … and provides an element of punishment,” Petre said. “It also opens the door to a much greater extent than prison does to rehabilitation.”
Petre said Bera must also complete 100 hours of public service, pay standard fees, submit to DNA testing and possible mental health evaluation and treatment, participate in sex offender treatment including a denier’s group, and not contact any children under 18 without supervision approved by the probation department. Bera must go before a judge to be taken off sex offender intensive supervised probation.
A probation department report recommended the sex offender intensive supervised probation. Assistant District Attorney Jeff Cheney had asked for two years of prison. He said Bera’s denial of guilt was a tactic to influence the sentence or it’s “indicative of someone who is absolutely detached from reality.” Cheney argued that she did not comply with the probation department, and that a man convicted of sleeping with teenage girls would go to prison.
He said a psychosexual evaluator concluded that Bera produced a fake positive report, and that the results suggest there is more to know than she’s willing to disclose. He also said a polygraph test about the sexual incidents showed deception.
“Ms. Bera could not tell the truth if it hit her in the face,” Cheney said. “This deception poses a huge risk to the public, your honor.”
Defense attorney Joe Olt said “nothing could be more watered down” than the polygraph test and that Bera has never failed to comply with probation. He said her criminal history was “lily-white.”
A jury in February convicted Bera, 28 at the time, on five of seven charges: three counts of sexual assault on a child 15 to 17 years old by a person in a position of trust; one count of sexual assault on a child, victim in custody; and one count of unlawful sexual contact, victim in custody. A 15-year-old and two 17-year-olds legally ordered to be at the center testified she had inappropriate contact with each of them in February 2006.