A local actor and singer has been charged with two felonies for allegedly having a sexual encounter in 2011 with a 14-year-old girl.
Dawson Howard, 31, was indicted by a Blaine County grand jury on Friday, arrested by the Blaine County Sheriff’s Office on Monday and formally charged with the crimes of rape and lewd conduct with a child under 16 at an initial court appearance Tuesday in Blaine County 5th District Court.
Howard was advised by Judge Robert Elgee that either crime is punishable by up to life in prison.
According to minutes of his initial court appearance, Howard did not enter a plea and arraignment was continued until 9 a.m. on Jan. 28. The Roark Law firm in Hailey was appointed to represent Howard under the firm’s public defender contract with Blaine County.
The minutes state that Elgee issued a no-contact order that prohibits Howard from being in the company without supervision of any girl under the age of 18. The order came at the urging of Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Matt Fredback, who stated that there are allegations of Howard having “inappropriate conduct” with another “underage female that is not named in this case.”
Howard was released from custody later Tuesday after posting $30,000 bond.
Howard is known in the Wood River Valley for having appeared in numerous theatrical and musical productions. He recently had a leading role in a nexStage Theatre production of the Shakespeare comedy “Twelfth Night.”
Blaine County Sheriff Gene Ramsey said Howard had been acquainted with the alleged victim in the case since 2008 when he was a camp counselor and she was enrolled in a drama camp. The sheriff said investigation showed that Howard began an “online relationship” with the girl in July 2011 and that the alleged crimes occurred about a month later.
“On Aug. 20, he allegedly picked up the 14-year-old girl at a parking lot in Sun Valley and drove her to a house in Ketchum where he was house-sitting,” Ramsey said.
The sheriff said his office initiated an investigation in August of that year when a complaint about the alleged incident was brought to the office’s attention.
Ramsey explained that the case took about a year and half to investigate before it was brought to prosecution because it was a complex investigation.
“Through interviews and extensive re-interviews, that’s how long it took to get it to a grand jury,” Ramsey said. “These things can take a long time because we have to be extremely careful in our investigation.”
Terry Smith: firstname.lastname@example.org