An insurance executive in Cherry Hills Village who had been accused of child sex assault pleaded guilty Wednesday to a much lesser charge that allows him to avoid prison.
Charles “Chuck” McDaniel, 62, pleaded guilty in a Centennial courtroom to misdemeanor harassment as part of a plea agreement with prosecutors that afternoon.
Their agreement, which was approved by a judge, requires McDaniel to spend one year on probation, avoid contact with his victim and take a class on sexual harassment prevention. In exchange, the misdemeanor will be wiped from his criminal record after one year.
“While this is not enough,” Deputy District Attorney Zoe Laird told District Court Judge Jacob Edson, “it will prevent the victim from having to go through a trial. No trial is easy for any victim, let alone a child who is a victim of sexual assault.”
“Unfortunately, with some of the issues in this case, there was potential for a not-guilty at trial after traumatizing the victim, subjecting her and her mom to examination.”
McDaniel opted not to speak at his sentencing hearing. But his attorney, Harvey Steinberg, described the plea agreement as vindication for an innocent, mistreated man.
“I urged the DA’s Office, I urged the detectives, not to file this case because it was never going to be proven. Never. They’re filing this, and where we are today, proves my point,” he said.
The prominent defense attorney accused prosecutors of “destroying the stellar reputation of an individual who did nothing wrong” and recounted how McDaniel came to plead guilty.
“I thought it would be an easy decision because, as I told him in my common-sense parlance, if you were my mother, I’d make her accept this plea,” Steinberg told the court.
“But he struggled with it because he said, ‘An innocent person shouldn’t plead guilty.’ I said, ‘It’s not about that. It’s a recognition that you did not commit these vile offenses. It’s time for everybody to move on, it’s time for everybody to heal,’” the lawyer explained.
The victim in the case, whom BusinessDen has elected not to name because she is a minor and alleges she is a victim of sexual assault, wrote a letter to Judge Edson. Her mother read it aloud in the courtroom, choking up and wiping away tears as McDaniel looked on.
“I didn’t do it because I was trying to hurt him or get back at him,” the girl explained, as she recalled telling a friend who then told school officials about McDaniel. The victim said that she didn’t directly tell her mother or a teacher “because I didn’t want to be in this courtroom.”
“I believed for over a year that all of this was my fault,” she said of the court case. But later, she said that she “realized that if he had chosen to stop touching me sexually, none of this would have happened.” She said that McDaniel “can never know the pain that he caused.”
Of the plea agreement, the girl said, “This will allow my family, who I love, to not have to continue to go through this. But he hurt me. That much is true.”
Edson, a former prosecutor who became a District Court judge in July, called the letter “powerful statements, very striking statements from somebody who is just a mere 15 years of age.” He then accepted the plea agreement, as both the prosecution and defense requested.
McDaniel was scheduled to stand trial in February on two counts of sexual assault of a child, charges that, if proven, would have sent him to prison for at least eight years. Those charges were dropped and the four-day trial was canceled by Wednesday’s plea agreement.
In a statement to BusinessDen, the victim’s father said “the reduced charges are very disappointing, but it’s still a guilty plea,” while praising prosecutors, the police and others.
“They did an outstanding job pursuing the stronger charges, but in the end, at this time, it was a tough decision to put her on the stand to relive and recount the sexual assault … We love her so much and we are just glad it’s over,” the father said.
When he was arrested and charged in February, McDaniel was a senior managing director with California-based Alliant Insurance Services. The firm announced his hiring in a 2019 press release, saying McDaniel would be based in Denver and lead a “retail vertical.”
An Alliant spokesman did not answer when asked Wednesday if McDaniel still works there.
He previously worked for Kansas City-based Lockton Cos. for more than two decades, serving as CEO of the Mountain West region from 2000 to 2018. McDaniel resigned from Lockton in early 2019, joined Alliant and was quickly followed by other Lockton employees.
Multiple lawsuits were filed. Court documents in one case state that, to convince McDaniel to join Alliant, the firm “offered him guaranteed compensation worth nearly $20 million,” with the potential to earn an additional $15 million, although the firm expected McDaniel would use some of that money to induce other Lockton employees to join him.