‘If anything I felt like I got forced into it,’ defendant in Silverthorne sexual assault trial testifies
More than 30 people packed into the gallery of Summit County District Court on Monday as a man on trial for sexual assault took the witness stand to profess his innocence.
On one side were Paul Garvin’s friends and family, some of whom had been present every day of the trial since it began last Monday.
On the other were more than two-dozen women including Garvin’s accuser, who sat stoically and shook her head as he told his side of the story, now tread-worn after five days of testimony.
Garvin is the first of four defendants to stand trial for what happened the night of March 17, 2016, when prosecutors say he and three other men sexually assaulted the woman while she was too impaired to give consent.
The way Garvin tells it, he was reluctantly pulled into the incident by his accuser and only participated briefly. But as unenthusiastic as he may have been, prosecutors claim that his negligence in ignoring the woman’s impairment amounted to sexual assault.
Court filings indicate that the cases against the other men — Justin Erwin, 41, Michael Gelber, 46, and Ramon Villa, 41 — are largely the same as Garvin’s, and the jury’s decision could augur their fates in court next year.
The accuser says she doesn’t remember the incident, except for several seconds of being held down and yelling “stop.” She woke up in pain in an unknown apartment with no memory of the night. She had been drinking but was apparently not drugged.
During testimony, Garvin said the woman seemed lucid and aware when she initiated the encounter.
“She was telling people what she wanted to have happen. … Her words were very clear, very consensual,” Garvin said under questioning from his attorney, Todd Barson.
Garvin said that he had been drinking at Murphy’s Irish Pub in Silverthorne before leaving with Villa to stay at his apartment. He said he felt sick, possibly with food poisoning, when the accuser arrived at the apartment with the other men.
He said he saw the accuser do a large line of cocaine in the kitchen before taking Erwin and Villa to a bedroom and later inviting Garvin and Gelber in as well.
Garvin was “awestruck, felt weird, felt shocked, kind of uneasy” after the woman allegedly propositioned the four men for sex, he said.
“I was definitely nervous, definitely not 100 percent. I had never been in that kind of situation before,” he said.
Consensual or not, the night left the woman with extensive bruising and other injuries documented during a six-hour exam by a forensic nurse the next day. Garvin denied responsibility for any of the injuries as District Attorney Bruce Brown displayed graphic photos of them on a projector.
In the first two of four cellphone videos of the encounter that Garvin appears in, he is not shown striking his accuser. It was the woman’s idea to film the encounter, he said.
The videos were shown privately to the jury, but during his exacting, two-and-a-half hour cross-examination, Brown played an audio clip of the accuser speaking in one of them, taken 40 minutes after Garvin claims he went to bed.
“Did you hear the slurring of those words?” Brown asked. “Your testimony is that was representative of the way she was speaking the entire night?”
Garvin said that the speech probably sounded irregular because the woman’s face was in a pillow, muffling her voice.
Brown, by turns cordial and incredulous, probed Garvin’s perception of the woman’s state of mind, appearing to lay the legal groundwork for his closing arguments on Tuesday. Garvin, he suggested, should have known the woman was too impaired to consent.
“Could you sense the raggedness of her body, or did she seem full of vim and vigor and strength?” Brown asked.
Garvin said throughout his testimony that the woman invited him into the room, then pulled at his belt and started taking off his pants.
“If anything I felt like I got forced into it,” he said.
Before Garvin’s testimony, the defense took aim at the accuser’s credibility, calling a former neighbor to the stand.
“She had approached me and told me about the case,” the neighbor said. “Basically she said she was expecting to get $30,000” from damages and victim’s assistance groups.
Barson also re-called the the woman’s former boyfriend to testify. He said that the woman had told him about a month before the incident that she had fantasized about having sex with multiple men.
The woman, called to testify again Monday morning, denied bragging about getting money because of the alleged assault. She said she did not recall ever sharing a sexual fantasy with the boyfriend.
Under cross-examination from prosecutor Lisa Hunt, the woman said she couldn’t work for eight months after the incident for fear of accidentally encountering the men, whose identities she still didn’t know.
Hunt also asked about the possible fantasy.
Would it have included being sexually assaulted by four strangers?
Waking up in a strange place with no clothes on?
Walking home in the freezing cold with no underwear?
Getting a six-hour sexual assault exam?
Being present and having to testify about being sexually assaulted?
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