The voir dire portion of the trial of Aspen bartender Peter Nardi went slowly Tuesday in Pitkin County District Court and will carry over into today.
Prosecutors and defense attorneys questioned individuals from a pool of 107 Pitkin County residents. The pool represented nearly half of the 220 jury summonses that had been mailed out in advance of the trial, which is scheduled to take up to nine days. As of 5 p.m. Tuesday, only 37 of the 107 who showed up for jury duty had been completely dismissed, said David Rahn, bailiff for the 9th Judicial District.
Rahn described the nearly 50 percent turnout of potential jurors as something positive, given the typical turnout of around 30 percent. He spent much of the day escorting small groups of people from the second-floor courtroom where they initially were gathered to the hall outside of District Judge Gail Nichols’ chambers. In her office, they were queried by attorneys in a closed setting because of the sensitive nature of the questions.
Aspen police arrested Nardi, 51, on April 6, 2013, following an incident at the home of a female friend. He later was formally charged by the 9th Judicial District Attorney’s Office with sexual assault. In subsequent interviews with The Aspen Times and the Aspen Daily News, he maintained his innocence. Reporters and editors with both newspapers have been subpoenaed as potential witnesses.
According to one potential juror who was dismissed, some of the questions Tuesday revolved around how much he knew about the case, which has received considerable local media attention over the past year. He declined to provide his name to a reporter.
Nardi is being represented by defense attorney John Van Ness, of Woody Creek, and Colleen Scissors, of Basalt. Prosecutors are deputy district attorneys Andrea Bryan and Jason Slothouber. Nardi, who was held in the Pitkin County Jail for part of 2013 following bail and protection-order violations, currently is free on $32,500 bond. If convicted of sexual assault, a felony, Nardi faces a minimum prison term of eight years and a maximum term of life.
The woman told police that Nardi took her captive in her apartment, forced water down her throat, beat her, covered her with a pillow, shoved his underwear down her throat, sexually assaulted her and threatened to kill her if she called authorities.
In an affidavit for a warrantless arrest, Aspen police officer Terry Leitch said he noticed bruising on the accuser’s jaw, forearms, wrist, right elbow and upper right arm in addition to a small cut on one of her middle fingers.