“Some of you are going to be shocked,” DA says of graphic evidence in Silverthorne sex assault trial
At times it seemed as if the jury assembled in Summit County District Court on Tuesday was simply being asked to piece together an alcohol-soaked St. Patrick’s Day night two years ago.
Bartenders were called to the stand. Receipts and tabs were displayed on the projector, scrutinized for sloppy signatures and bad math. Who was partying with whom? Who was buying shots and beers?
But prosecutors say that together, those fragments help reveal the night’s grim conclusion: a humiliating and traumatizing episode of group sex at an apartment in Silverthorne that left a woman bruised, bleeding and bewildered.
Alcohol nearly wiped her memory of the night. District Attorney Bruce Brown argued in court that she was too impaired to give consent, making the four men who had sex with her criminally liable.
The first of them, 46-year-old Paul Garvin, is facing trial over the next eight days, accused of sexual assault and lesser crimes for his role in what happened early in the morning on March 18, 2016. Justin Erwin, 41, Michael Gelber, 46, and Ramon Villa, 41, are still awaiting trial.
Garvin’s attorney, Todd Barson, offered a very different narrative of the night, one where a woman spent the night flirting with strangers at a bar and later initiated the liaison in extremely vulgar terms. Garvin, he said, was only roped in briefly and left before things went bad.
“She was the director of everything that went down, including the 10 minutes that Paul was in the room,” Barson said. “He leaves the room and says, ‘This isn’t for me, I’m going to bed.’”
The case typifies what law enforcement often describe as the darker side of Summit County’s bar scene, but for the defense, it’s likely to be cast as the criminalization of bad choices between consenting adults. It is the second sexual assault case to go to trial in six months where the outcome likely hinges on the mental state of an intoxicated accuser.
The woman in this case remembers only two, five-second snippets of the alleged assault. Part of that, she testified, was the brief feeling of being held down while several men had sex with her as she yelled, “Stop.”
The rest may be left up to four cellphone videos showing parts of what happened, but they are said to be poor quality. Garvin appears only in the first two, which are apparently less incriminating than those that followed.
“This is going to be a tough case,” Brown told jurors in his opening statement. “The subject matter is so intimate and the evidence is extraordinarily graphic… some of you are going to be shocked.”
Testimony began Tuesday with the woman’s boyfriend at the time. He said the woman had been drinking all evening and essentially dumped him while flirting with another man at Murphy’s Irish Pub in Silverthorne. He left around midnight, telling her “it’s over” in a text.
Two bartenders testified that the woman spent the rest of the night at the bar flirting with and kissing strangers. They noticed her odd behavior when she arrived and declined to serve her all night, they said.
During cross-examination, Barson aimed to sow doubts that the woman was as drunk as prosecutors said. Both bartenders told him that while the woman was being “inappropriate” and “boisterous,” she wasn’t slurring her words or unsteady on her feet.
Nonetheless, text messages with the woman’s then-boyfriend suggest that she became highly incoherent shortly after 1 a.m.
During the woman’s emotional testimony Tuesday afternoon, she said she remembered very little of her time at Murphy’s or what followed.
Neither side suggested Tuesday that she had been drugged, but Brown referred to alcohol as the most common date-rape drug. Barson said in his opening statements that no drinks were ever pushed on the accuser, who had been drinking steadily all evening.
Earlier that night, the woman said she had been celebrating the end of an intensive fitness program where she had won second place. She was eating healthier, drinking less and had lost weight, she said.
Prosecutors showed before-and-after pictures of her progress in the fitness program. They contrasted sharply with photos she took of herself the next morning showing severe bruising on parts of her body.
‘DIDN’T KNOW WHAT HAPPENED’
On the night of the alleged assault, her boyfriend met up with her at Food Hedz in Frisco, where she had three to four glasses of wine, followed by a shot and a beer at the Moose Jaw, a bar in Frisco.
She and her boyfriend planned on retiring for the night with a bottle of wine but couldn’t find an open liquor store. They then went to Murphy’s, where the woman said her memory largely cuts out.
The woman vaguely remembered walking from the bar supported by two men, but couldn’t remember who they were. She remembers just two traumatizing snippets of the ordeal that followed, then woke up naked in an apartment she didn’t recognize.
Barson said that Garvin happened to be staying at the apartment, which belonged to Ramon Villa. He said his client was awoken by the sound of the woman returning with Villa and two other men. After briefly being drawn into the sex, Garvin went to sleep in a different room, Barson said.
The woman later went to sleep there and woke up confused, with Garvin still asleep next to her. She went to the bathroom to collect herself.
“I was in pain so I lifted my shirt up and saw all kinds of bruising,” she said, her voice catching. “And didn’t know what happened, so I started to get very scared.”
Her phone was dead. Her hair was a matted mess. She couldn’t find her shoes or underwear. She walked to the bus stop and later arrived at St. Anthony Summit Medical Center in Frisco, where a forensic nurse examiner took stock of her injuries.
Brown said the photos from that exam had been lost, but in his opening statements he presented the jury with a written report outlining extensive abrasions, bruises and sexual trauma.
Court adjourned for the day at 5:10 p.m. The woman’s remaining testimony and Barson’s cross-examination were set to continue Wednesday morning.
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