Ramon Villa accepts plea deal in 2016 Silverthorne sexual assault case | SummitDaily.com

Ramon Villa accepts plea deal in 2016 Silverthorne sexual assault case

Ramon Villa, 42, pleaded guilty Monday to sexual assault, the final of four men charged in connection with a sexual assault case from St. Patrick's Day 2016. Villa will be sentenced in January.

Ramon Villa, one of four men accused in a Silverthorne sexual assault in 2016, accepted a plea deal at the Eagle County Justice Center on Monday morning.

Villa, 42, who earlier this year went to trial for the assault before a sudden mistrial was declared, pleaded guilty to a felony charge of attempted sexual assault, along with misdemeanor charges of invasion of privacy for sexual gratification and unlawful sexual contact.

"He fully admitted his involvement in the underlying crime," said Fifth Judicial District Attorney Bruce Brown. "We view that as an important factor in mitigation. He came forward, and that's always the first step towards somebody succeeding and being rehabilitated. We're glad we avoided the prospect of a trial in this case, which is always difficult for the victim."

Villa is one of four men accused of sexually assaulting a woman too inebriated to consent in his Silverthorne apartment after a night of drinking on St. Patrick's Day in 2016. Villa's plea signals another step forward for the case, which has seen two plea deals and three trials in a process that has now dragged on for more than two years.

Villa originally rejected a plea deal in December 2017 and subsequently went to trial for the assault in September this year in Eagle County. But after three days of testimony, a mistrial was suddenly declared after a page of notes from the trial of Justin Erwin — another of the accused — was discovered in one of the jurors' notepads. Why Villa accepted a plea bargain after rejecting one in December is unknown.

"I can't get into his mindset," said Brown. "Obviously he's had substantial time in custody through pre-trial incarceration, and that could well have given him an opportunity to reflect on his circumstances and change course."

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The deal itself looks very similar to a plea deal that was accepted by another accused in the case, Michael Gelber, in June this year. Villa pleaded guilty to attempted sexual assault, a class-five felony that carries a presumptive punishment of up to six years in the Colorado Department of Corrections. In addition, Villa pleaded guilty to two class-one misdemeanors including invasion of privacy for sexual gratification and unlawful sexual contact, each punishable by up to two years in local custody.

As part of the plea agreement Villa can only serve a maximum of 90 days in prison for the felony charge, meaning at most he could serve about four years and three months in a combination of prison and jail. On the lower end, Villa could potentially avoid further incarceration altogether, given that he's already served about a year in jail. Additionally according to Brown, he'll likely serve about four years of supervised probation, and will be required to complete sex offender treatment.

Villa's case is the third of four to finally be completed, and it helps to emphasize a dramatic variation among the adjudication of cases stemming from the incident. Paul Garvin was convicted on a felony sexual assault charge after a trial in October 2017, and was subsequently sentenced to a minimum of 16 years in prison. Gelber accepted a similar plea deal and was sentenced to one year in Summit County Jail, in addition to eight years of supervised probation. But Justin Erwin, who went to trial this July, was acquitted on 11 of the 20 charges brought against him and a mistrial was declared on the other nine.

Erwin is expected to go back to trial for the nine charges — including 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 — though a new trial date has yet to be set.

Villa's sentencing hearing will be held on Jan. 7 at 9 a.m. at the Eagle County Justice Center, presided over by Fifth Judicial District Judge Russell Granger.

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