Self-described ‘gypsy’ testifies for defense in day two of Breckenridge sexual assault trial
The sexual assault trial of Christopher Jay Gann wrapped up its second day of testimony on Thursday, with the accuser’s wife and an eccentric defense witness trying to fill in the huge gaps in both Gann’s and his accuser’s memory of the January 2017 incident.
Gann faces a pair of felony sexual assault counts, each carrying potentially lengthy prison sentences. Prosecutors allege that he assaulted the woman in his car outside a home near Breckenridge while she was too impaired to consent.
The woman doesn’t remember any of the 12-hour span during which the incident took place, a memory lapse that is still inexplicable after two days of testimony. Complicating matters further, Gann claims to have blacked out during the time in question because he had been drinking all day.
In May 2017, investigators with the Summit County Sheriff’s Office were able to match Gann’s DNA to a stain found on the woman’s clothing. He was arrested in Oregon and extradited to Breckenridge two months later.
On Thursday, prosecutors sought to firm up their case with a slate of expert witness testimony, including from a DNA analyst, a forensic nurse and a sheriff’s office detective.
But the defense’s first witness, called out of order for scheduling reasons, briefly stole the show. He had been staying at the ersatz hostel near Breckenridge where the incident occurred and had been with the woman and Gann during the day.
The man, a self-described Mohawk elder, storyteller and gypsy who now resides in Oregon, told a different version of the day’s events during his peculiar, often discursive testimony.
Under questioning from public defender Reed Owens, the 75-year-old said the woman had purchased the alcohol that day, not Gann, and that the woman had been drinking heavily while she drove the three of them to Park County and back.
When they got back to the house, the man said he went off alone to weave medicine bags and read. He also took a nap and made a “nutritional smoothie” that likely contained cannabis, but he wasn’t sure in what order.
During her testimony Wednesday, the woman said the man had pressured her into drinking the smoothie about 30 minutes before her 12-hour blackout. The man denied this.
“I didn’t make a smoothie for her, I made it for me,” he said. “I have a few herbalist friends that teach me about dandelions and things like that. … I make nutritional smoothies. … It might have had some ‘green medicine’ in it, but very little.”
The man said that the woman had been flirtatious with Gann throughout the day, even though the woman is a lesbian who was dating a woman at the time and has since married her.
The man said that some time during the evening, he saw the woman walk outside naked from the waist down. (During her testimony, the woman said that she came to at around 3 a.m., finding herself half-naked in the passenger seat of Gann’s car parked outside).
During cross-examination, prosecutor Johnny Lombardi sought to chip away at the man’s credibility.
Why had he refused to cooperate with police? (He didn’t trust them.)
Why did he seem to have such a selective memory? (He only remembers what he wants to remember.)
“I’m a little different than you,” he told Lombardi at one point. “You’re stuck living in time… I don’t live in time.”
But time, or rather lost time, is the crux of the case, and the man’s testimony left mostly open the large gaps in both Gann’s and the woman’s memories.
The woman’s wife filled in a little more detail during her testimony Thursday. She was incredulous of the defense narrative that her partner would’ve been drinking hard liquor all day with men she barely knew.
“She doesn’t day drink,” the wife said. “She doesn’t do that type of thing, especially if she’s going to be driving somewhere. She’s a responsible adult.”
On the evening in question, the woman failed to pick up her wife from work as planned, and repeated phone calls to her went unanswered.
The wife eventually went to the house some time in the evening and found her sleeping. Unable to rouse the woman and frustrated with having been unable to reach her, the wife left and stayed somewhere else for the evening.
At around 3 a.m., she received a call from the woman, who was distraught after waking up half-naked in below-freezing weather in Gann’s car. While the woman has some cognitive impairment from a previous injury, a 12-hour memory lapse was unheard of, the wife said.
The forensic nurse who examined the woman the next day said she tested positive for several drugs but had prescriptions for all of them. The woman testified that she took those drugs daily and had never blacked out.
At least one more witness was set to be called on Friday, and prosecutors said they expected the case to be handed over to the jury by around noon.
Judge Karen Romeo advised Gann of his Fifth Amendment rights on Thursday, but he gave no indication of whether or not he would take the stand.
One of the felony counts against him carries a potential sentence of two to six years, while the other carries four to 12.
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