Erwin found not guilty on 11 counts in Silverthorne sexual assault trial; mistrial declared for other counts

Justin Erwin
Special to the Daily

Editor’s note: A digest of trial coverage can be found here. 

EAGLE — It was a highly emotional and tense day at the Eagle County Justice Center on Wednesday as the jury finally returned verdicts in the trial of Justin Cayce Erwin, one of four men accused of sexually assaulting a woman in a Silverthorne apartment on St. Patrick’s Day in 2016. After nearly two days of deliberation, the jury found Erwin not guilty on 11 of the 20 counts brought against him. 

Judge John McMullen declared a mistrial on the other nine counts after the jury, seemingly deadlocked, informed the court that further deliberations would be fruitless. 

“Mr. Erwin is very pleased that the jury was able to reach the not guilty verdict in the 11 counts they were able to reach, and he thanks them for their service in this matter,” said Ashley Petrey, the head of Erwin’s defense team. 

Lisa Hunt, lead prosecutor on the case, declined to comment on the outcome of the trial. 

Erwin was exonerated on nine counts of sexual assault, one count of unlawful sexual contact and one count of invasion of privacy for sexual gratification. Of the nine counts that split the jury there were three counts of sexual assault, two counts of unlawful sexual contact, three counts of invasion of privacy for sexual gratification and one count of conspiracy to commit invasion of privacy for sexual gratification. 

On Wednesday afternoon the judge read the jury a modified “Allen Instruction,” a charge that judges can use when a jury is seemingly at an impasse to try and move them toward a verdict. In the end, the jury, comprised of eight women and four men, couldn’t reach definitive decisions on the charges, and the court decided to move on. 

A tangible sense of relief and elation could be felt on one side of the scarcely populated courtroom as the verdicts were revealed. Erwin was in attendance for the verdicts, along with members of his family in the audience. A very different feeling emanated from the prosecutor’s side, as Erwin’s accuser, also in attendance, began to cry as not-guilty-verdicts came down, and left the room quickly afterward. 

While the results certainly represent a significant win for Erwin and his team, it remains to be seen how long they’ll be able to savor the victory. A status conference to decide what actions will be taken in regard to the nine undecided counts will be held on Aug. 9, when litigators will decide whether or not to try the case with a new jury, or drop the additional counts entirely. District Judge Frederick Gannett will preside over any future hearings, according to Judge McMullen. 

Erwin’s case was the third of four to be adjudicated from the alleged Silverthorne assault more than two years ago, but his partial exoneration shows a stark contrast to the other court decisions stemming from the incident. Paul Garvin was convicted of a Class 2 sexual assault in Summit County District Court in October and was sentenced to prison for a minimum of 16 years. Michael Gelber pleaded guilty to a reduced felony charge and two misdemeanors in June. Ramon Villa, the resident of the apartment the incident took place in, pleaded not guilty to felony charges in December, and is scheduled to go to trial in Eagle County from Sept. 4-14.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

As a Summit Daily News reader, you make our work possible.

Summit Daily is embarking on a multiyear project to digitize its archives going back to 1989 and make them available to the public in partnership with the Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection. The full project is expected to cost about $165,000. All donations made in 2023 will go directly toward this project.

Every contribution, no matter the size, will make a difference.