Man who pleaded guilty in 2016 assault case sentenced to one year in jail, 8 years probation

Michael Gelber is one of four men accused of sexually assaulting a woman in Silverthorne on St. Patrick’s Day 2016

Michael Gelber, 47
Special to the daily

One of four men accused of sexually assaulting a woman in Silverthorne on St. Patrick’s Day in 2016 was sentenced on Wednesday in front of an emotional crowd at the Eagle County Justice Center.

Michael Gelber, 47, was sentenced to one year in Summit County Jail on a felony count of attempted sexual assault. In addition, Gelber must complete eight years of supervised probation, which includes a rigorous treatment program for sex offenders.

Gelber is one of four men accused of sexually assaulting a woman too inebriated to consent after a night of drinking on St. Patrick’s Day 2016. He was initially scheduled to be tried as a co-defendant with Justin Erwin — another of the accused — but pleaded guilty on a plea deal in June rather than face trial. As part of the deal, Gelber pleaded guilty to one count of felony-attempted sexual assault, as well as two misdemeanor charges of unlawful sexual contact and invasion of privacy.

The victim of the assault was present at the sentencing hearing and provided a statement in which she lamented the psychological and financial burdens this incident has had on her over the last two-and-a-half years, as well as reaffirming her commitment to finding justice.

“Reporting this depraved crime and remaining steadfast in holding these men accountable has at the same time destroyed my life, and has also awakened in me a sense of justice and fight to change the way our society functions,” she said. “Domination, aggression and misogyny will not continue without a fight on my watch.”

The woman continued to recount what she could from the night of the assault and described her continuous journey back to relative normalcy. She publicly forgave Gelber for his participation in the assault, and implored him to take full advantage of his rehabilitation so that he could come out of jail a better man.

“Forgiveness is not absolving someone of their sins or crimes,” the woman said. “Rather it is letting go of the resentment towards someone that wronged you. I know deeply how much resentment can hurt. How much it thwarts healing. Forgiveness is a gift I’m choosing to give myself. With that said, I want you to know that I choose to forgive you. And I hope by being held accountable, that you are able to find the peace that having forgiveness in your heart can bring.”

More than 10 individuals came to speak on behalf of Gelber’s character, and to urge Judge Frederick Gannet to show leniency in sentencing him. Former co-workers, roommates, family and long-time friends painted Gelber as an otherwise salt-of-the-earth man who made a singular mistake. Supporters stepped up to the podium in turn to share stories and prepared statements of Gelber’s loyalty, reliability and kindness over the last 25 years. They also collectively voiced that Gelber took the charges against him incredibly seriously, and had expressed remorse for his actions that night.

Gelber’s attorney, Ryan Gilman, also spoke out on Gelber’s behalf.

“Michael Gelber is one of these people who did a bad thing,” said Gilman. “But he’s a good man, a good person, and that should count for something.”

Finally, Gelber spoke for himself, offering an apology to the victim.

“I’m truly sorry that I participated in something that caused her so much pain,” said Gelber. “Had I known it was going to, I wouldn’t have. And I’m sorry.”

Gelber has two weeks to surrender himself to the Summit County Jail. Should he violate the terms of his probation, he could be resentenced to up to four years in confinement, according to District Attorney Bruce Brown. Gelber is eligible for work release while serving his year in prison. In addition to jail time and supervised probation, Gelber was also ordered to pay more than $14,000 in restitutions to the victim, as well as over $5,000 in prosecution costs.

Three other cases stemming from the St. Patrick’s Day incident have already been adjudicated, though not necessarily resolved. Paul Garvin was convicted of felony sexual assault in Oct. 2016, and subsequently sentenced to 16 years in prison. In July, Justin Erwin was exonerated on 11 of 20 charges, though a mistrial was declared on the other nine charges after the jury reached a stalemate in deliberation. Ramon Villa went to trial in September, but a mistrial was declared due to clerical errors by the courthouse.

Villa is set to appear in Eagle County Court on Oct. 29 to set a new trial date. Erwin has a number of status conferences scheduled throughout the next month in both Summit and Eagle counties.

“We’re another milestone into this process,” said Brown. “We have more work to do, and because of the victim’s strength and the support of the community she has, we’re confident we’re getting close to the point where we can close the books on this horrific instance where she was sexually assaulted.”

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