Summit County man sentenced to 16 years to life for sexual assault
Judge Karen Romeo was in an unenviable position Wednesday afternoon, with anguished faces arrayed on both sides of her courtroom, a raft of unresolved legal questions and sentencing laws that demanded she send a man to prison for no less than 16 years and as many as 48 to life.
After a wrenching, two-hour hearing, she had no choice but to follow the letter of the law, delivering a sentence she described as “extraordinary” in the presence of 10 friends and family who spoke on behalf of the man, Paul Dee Garvin.
The victim in the case was also present, however. As Romeo noted, the crime committed against her, of which Garvin was convicted last November, was egregious. Prosecutors described it as a gang rape caught on film in a Silverthorne apartment that left a woman severely injured, shattered emotionally and suddenly rudderless in life.
During Wednesday’s hearing, the woman told the court about the night of St. Patrick’s Day two years ago, when Garvin and three other men sexually assaulted her for hours while she was blackout drunk and barely conscious. (The co-defendants await trial and haven’t been found guilty).
“I was on the top of the world and then it happened … all my hopes and dreams for the future came to a screeching halt,” she told the court, asking for a sentence of 20 years. “I was the strongest, fittest and most confident I’d ever been…. That was all stripped from me that night.”
The only thing worse than waking up naked in a stranger’s apartment bruised, bleeding and confused, she said, was later discovering the assault had been filmed. She then had to re-live the ordeal during trial, watching the videos as they played for a jury of her peers and listening to the audio played in open court.
She powered through, she said, to help ensure no one else ever has to go through such an awful experience, one she will have to repeat twice this summer as Garvin’s co-defendants face trial in neighboring Eagle County, where their cases have been moved.
Prosecutor Lisa Hunt, who tried Garvin alongside District Attorney Bruce Brown, briefly walked through some of the graphic details of the case, arguing that the involvement of multiple defendants made it all the more unconscionable.
At trial, a Summit County jury found Garvin guilty of class-two felony sexual assault, a category one step down from homicide. Jurors also ruled that Garvin was aided and abetted by others, a finding that eliminated the possibility of probation in lieu of jail.
After the conviction, there was some confusion in the courtroom about this point. It was only later that Garvin found out he would almost certainly go to prison until his mid- to late sixties, when his two children will be grown.
The people who took turns pleading with Judge Romeo to show leniency often stressed Garvin’s devotion to his children, describing him as a family man, reliable friend and pillar of the community.
“Paul is a family man, an honest man, a sincere and loving man with an incredible soul and passion for life,” his sister said though tears. “Everything Paul does revolves around his kids.”
Most of Garvin’s supporters were aware that asking Judge Romeo to spare him prison was perhaps futile, given what the law demanded. Several also acknowledged that Garvin had made a grave mistake, but said that deep down he was a good man who would never intentionally hurt anyone.
Garvin was given the last word, which he used to first apologize to the victim, seated in the front row of the gallery.
“I’m so sorry for this … in all aspects,” he said, turning to the woman. “I cannot imagine what or how you feel, but I know pain … I have no words big enough to take away any of this.”
After giving a brief tally of his own losses — his job, his home, his good name — Garvin read a poem about his two children and all of the things he would miss with them if went to prison.
“I hope nothing but the best for you, that you live a happy life and maybe someday forgive me,” he concluded, turning once again to the victim.
Judge Romeo, who presided over the trial, made it clear that her hands were tied as she began her ruling, which she delivered from the bench.
Weighing mitigating and aggravating factors, she noted the wild imbalance between Garvin’s awful crime and his image as a stand-up friend, father and coworker painted in court.
“According to everyone who just stood up for you, you are a good man … I don’t know where that Paul Garvin was that night,” she said.
Garvin, she noted, seemed in some ways the least culpable of the men. He participated reluctantly and was present for only 10 minutes of the hours-long assault. However, he appeared to be the most lucid of the bunch, potentially the most capable of intervening.
“Somebody should’ve said, ‘this isn’t right,’ and it seems to me you would’ve been the person to say that — but you didn’t,” Romeo said.
Still, the sentence was a hefty one, carrying a potential life sentence. Garvin won’t be eligible for parole until after 16 years, and whether or not he stays in prison after that will be up to the Department of Corrections. If released, he will be on probation for the rest of his life and will be registered as a sex offender.
Garvin’s attorney, Dana Christiansen, said that he intends to appeal Garvin’s conviction on multiple grounds, including due process and equal protection standards.
Romeo ruled that those couldn’t be considered until after a sentence was delivered. After her ruling, Christiansen filed a motion for an appeal bond allowing Garvin to be released for the time being.
Romeo denied the motion, citing the nature of Garvin’s crimes. He said his goodbyes and was escorted into custody.
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