Defense in Silverthorne rape trial calls first witness, said to be in same apartment that night
October 27, 2017
Prosecutors called their final witness in a sex assault trial late-Friday morning, wrapping up four days of testimony alleging that four men raped a woman in March 2016 while she was physically helpless and too impaired to consent.
In the afternoon, the defense made its first move, calling a witness who was in the apartment at the time but only claims to have heard, not seen, what happened. The defense will continue its case next week.
The main thread of the trial so far has been the accuser's mental state at the time of the incident. The only thing she remembers after arriving at a Silverthorne bar on St. Patrick's Day night is several seconds of being held down and yelling "stop" while the men allegedly assaulted her at a nearby residence. She woke up with severe injuries in an apartment she didn't recognize.
According to testimony, the woman did not test positive for date-rape drugs, although prosecutors and expert witnesses said alcohol is the most common date-rape drug.
Paul Garvin is currently standing trial, and the outcome of his case could ripple over into those of his co-defendants, who are scheduled for court next year. Garvin's attorney, Todd Barson, has argued that the sex was consensual and initiated by the accuser.
Because of the accuser's memory loss, prosecutors sought to characterize her mental state during the alleged assault by calling several witnesses who saw her at Murphy's Irish Pub in Silverthorne before she left.
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Their accounts have been mixed, describing the woman as oddly flirtatious but otherwise seemingly lucid.
The prosecution's final witness, a friend of co-defendant Justin Erwin, echoed that sentiment, but her testimony seemed to contradict her prior statement to police that described the accuser as highly intoxicated.
After prosecutors rested, the defense called Ramona Villa, mother of co-defendant Ramon Villa, who was in her room in their shared apartment when the alleged assault occurred.
"They were talking and talking and laughing and laughing, very happy, the woman was laughing," she recalled.
Later, she said she heard the sounds of sex coming from another room. She repeated some of the lurid statements attributed to the accuser in the defense's story. Under questioning from Barson, she said she never heard anything to suggest the woman didn't want to be in the room.
But as prosecutor Lisa Hunt pointed out in cross-examination, Villa only made those statements after being approached by Barson in August. She didn't mention them in her initial interview with police.
"I was very confused and didn't know what happened so I didn't want to say anything," said Villa, who speaks English as a second language.
Hunt's cross-examination also seemed to highlight Villa's possible conflict of interest as a witness, given her son's own implication in the night's events. Ramon Villa was recently arrested for the alleged crimes in California, where he and his mother had both moved.
At the end of the day's proceedings, Barson told Judge Karen Romeo that it is possible but unlikely that Garvin's co-defendants will testify on Monday.
Judge Romeo advised Garvin of his Fifth Amendment rights, but he said he had yet to decide whether or not he would testify. His final decision is expected Monday.
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