New witness emerges midway through Silverthorne sex assault trial, in possible boost for defense |

New witness emerges midway through Silverthorne sex assault trial, in possible boost for defense

Jack Queen
Murphy's Irish Pub in Silverthorne.
Hugh Carey / |

A new potential witness, whose testimony could bolster the defense’s case, came forward halfway through the proceedings in a Summit County sexual assault trial.

The development comes just a day after revelations that the accuser thought that an interaction with alcohol and her medication could have affected her decision-making on the night of March 17, 2016, when she says four men had sex with her while she was blacked out.

While both sides knew she had been taking the medication, its effects when mixed with alcohol weren’t expected to be an issue at trial until the accuser mentioned it to District Attorney Bruce Brown before her second day of testimony, leading to some legal tussling before the jury was summoned.

One of the accused men, Paul Garvin, is currently standing trial, and the other three are scheduled for court next year. Garvin’s defense attorney, Todd Barson, is arguing that the sex was consensual and initiated by the accuser. Prosecutors counter that she was too impaired to give consent.

The admissibility of the new testimony was still in question on Thursday evening, but Judge Karen Romeo was expected to rule on it Friday.

Outside the courtroom, Barson declined to elaborate on what the witness would offer, but it was clear that the testimony was expected to bolster his case.

Also outside the presence of the jury, Barson indicated that he might recall the accuser’s former boyfriend to the stand, although it was unclear what additional information he would offer.

The boyfriend was with the accuser the night of the incident at Murphy’s Irish Pub in Silverthorne but testified Tuesday that he left after she effectively dumped him while talking with another man.

It is also possible that Garvin’s co-defendants — Justin Erwin, 41, Michael Gelber, 46, and Ramon Villa, 41 — might testify for the defense, either on Friday or Monday. They have been charged with the same crimes, although they could provide eyewitness testimony backing up the defense narrative.

The alleged crime occurred in Villa’s home at the Villa Sierra Madre apartments, where he was an assistant manager at the time. Villa made four cellphone videos of the group sex, which were presented privately to the jury.

Those videos are key pieces of evidence in the case. According to testimony on Thursday by detective Theresa Barger of the Silverthorne Police Department, it’s unlikely anyone would’ve been arrested without them because the accuser couldn’t remember what the men looked like.

Barger testified that she helped the accuser re-trace her steps and locate the apartment where she woke up naked and unaware of what happened the night before.

Police recovered four cellphones in a search of the apartment and had identified several of the co-defendants as persons of interest after speaking with bartenders and finding Garvin’s dog at the apartment.

It took nearly a year to get the phones unlocked, leaving the case at a standstill, Barger said. When they were opened, she found the videos. The first two show Garvin, Gelber and Erwin, while the second two show only Gelber and Erwin.

The videos are said to be poor quality, and it is apparently not always clear what is being said.

The accuser, who had been drinking, said in her testimony that she didn’t remember any of the night after arriving at Murphy’s except for several seconds of being held down and yelling “stop” while men had sex with her.

She did not test positive for any date-rape drugs at the hospital during an exam the next day, which documented extensive bruising and other injuries.

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