Wife testifies during Silverthorne Police Officer’s trial on domestic violence charges

The trial in Clear Creek County court will pick up Thursday morning with the defense cross-examining the police officer's wife

Joel Victor Ponedel, 38.
Clear Creek County Sheriff’s Office/Courtesy photo

The wife of a Silverthorne police officer took the witness stand Wednesday, June 7, in a Clear Creek County court and testified that her husband slapped her while she was holding their newborn daughter in December 2021.

Joel Ponedel, 38, of Evergreen, has pleaded not guilty to charges of third-degree assault, child abuse and harassment, all misdemeanors. Wearing a slate blue suit, Ponedel sat quietly in the courtroom throughout the day as Judge Cynthia Jones sat a six-member jury and began what is expected to be a two-day trial.

Ponedel, a sergeant at the Silverthorne Police Department, was arrested in February 2022. He remains on paid administrative leave at the police department, pending the outcome of the trial.

“You’re going to hear her explain that when she has her young child in her arms, that this defendant reared back and slapped her across the face,” Deputy District Attorney Stephen Potts said in opening arguments. 

But Ponedel’s defense attorney, Ryan Brackley, raised questions about the events depicted by the prosecution, saying that the details of the confrontation alleged by Ponedel’s wife have changed over time.

“I have never heard the version of events we just heard here,” Brackley said. “When these allegations were made, there was a much different story.”

Ponedel and his wife met in January 2018 and the relationship progressed quickly, his wife testified on Wednesday. She said she had stayed over at his place for three nights by the second date and moved in with him four months later. The two married in spring 2019 and had been married for about a year and a half when she had their son, she said.

The assault is alleged to have happened sometime between Dec. 2 and Dec. 7, 2021, when both Ponedel and his wife were studying for final exams associated with online degrees they were seeking. Ponedel worked four days a week with a long commute to and from Silverthorne, his wife said, while she was a stay-at-home mom who worked one day a week in Frisco.

Ponedel’s wife testified that she was upstairs studying but had to take an online exam, so she went downstairs to ask Ponedel to watch their son, who was upstairs asleep in his crib, while she took the exam.

She said Ponedel did not like being asked to take care of their son and began to argue with her, accusing her of poor time management and being a bad mom and housewife. He followed her back up the stairs as she tried to end the argument by leaving, she said.

“I knew that conversation was going to go nowhere,” Ponedel’s wife said through tears. “I didn’t want it to escalate. I just wanted to take my final.” 

Ponedel’s yelling woke the sleeping baby, she testified, so she went into the baby’s room as her husband continued to chastise her. As she went to calm her son, she said Ponedel grabbed her and pushed her into a wall.

The baby began to cry louder as this happened, Ponedel’s wife testified, so when Ponedel let her go, she picked up the baby from the crib. When she turned around, she said Ponedel slapped her across the face.

“I felt like it was the final straw, that I need to get out because of my son” Ponedel’s wife said.

Still, Ponedel’s wife said she was fearful of him and did not tell anyone about the incident for weeks, even after she learned that an investigator from the 5th Judicial District Attorney’s Office had been trying to contact her.

“I didn’t think it was worth putting my life or my son’s life in danger,” Ponedel’s wife said when Potts asked why she didn’t tell anyone about the alleged assault. At one point she testified, “I have been told before that the only way out of our marriage was 6 feet under.”

Ponedel’s wife also said her husband constantly monitored her electronic communications.

“I felt like I was walking on eggshells day and night,” she said.

Brackley began to cross-examine Ponedel’s wife Wednesday but did not get the chance to finish. He will resume where he left off Thursday morning.

During his questioning, Brackley asked Ponedel’s wife whether she remembered the initial interview she had with an investigator from the District Attorney’s Office. During that interview, Brackley said, she told the investigator the alleged confrontation began, not because of a disagreement over who would watch the baby, but for a different reason related to a friend’s wife accusing Ponedel’s wife of having an extramarital affair with her husband.

Ponedel’s wife stated she did not recall telling the investigator that. Brackley asked if the recording of that interview will refresh her memory. He began to play the recording, but there were technical difficulties. He said he will play the clip Thursday instead.

Brackley also questioned Ponedel’s wife about why she and Ponedel had tried to get back together in 2022 after charges had been filed, and she responded that she believed in marriage and that Ponedel said he had changed. Ponedel’s wife said she filed for divorce in August 2022. Brackley also raised questions about text messages in which she admits to hitting her husband but noted that there are no text messages about her husband hitting her.

Earlier in the day, the prosecution called the investigator for the District Attorney’s Office and a friend of Ponedel’s wife as witnesses. She said she met the friend because her husband was also a Silverthorne officer.

The friend testified that because Ponedel monitored his wife’s communications, the two friends developed a “code,” where the friend would text Ponedel’s wife about wanting to catch up. But Ponedel’s wife would never respond to the text and instead would call her friend from a work phone that Ponedel couldn’t monitor, the friend said.

The investigator testified that Silverthorne Police Chief John Minor asked the District Attorney’s Office to begin looking into the case after another officer at the department reported to the chief that Ponedel’s wife had disclosed allegations of domestic abuse during a social event in November 2021.

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.