The alleged victim in the sexual-assault trial of Aspen bartender Peter Nardi took the stand on Thursday afternoon, often pausing to cry as she detailed the “hours of torture” she says she suffered at his hands in the early morning hours of April 6, 2013.
The woman — who lives permanently in Texas but rented an apartment in Aspen near the end of their eight-month relationship — said she went to a party the evening before and arrived back at her home on South Mill Street sometime around 12:45 a.m. She said she was surprised to find Nardi there, watching television in the dark. She does not know how he was able to get inside her new residence, she said, because she had been trying to end their relationship for several weeks and had not given him a key.
Her reaction to seeing him, she said, “was like one of dread.” He had been verbally and mentally abusive to her for many months, physically abusive for a lesser amount of time, and she had had enough.
“I started to take off my shoes, and right I away I could see that he was angry,” the woman said. She testified that Nardi asked her, “‘Who were you with tonight, are you seeing a boyfriend’ — it started to be all the jealous accusations. I said, ‘Peter, just go home; we’re not gonna do this.’”
It didn’t cross her mind to call police right then, she said, even though Nardi was uninvited. An hour earlier, she had testified that a few days before, on April 1, he socked her in the jaw at the restaurant where he worked, Su Casa, as she was attempting to leave the bar that night without him.
“I didn’t want trouble,” the woman said. “I just wanted him out of my life.”
As for the April 6 incident, she walked away from Nardi and started to change out of her clothes and remove her makeup, but he followed her into the bathroom, she said.
“It was just like the other times when he completely lost control,” the woman said. “Just a whole barrage of accusations and calling me names and being completely ugly.”
Nardi “shoved me into the wall,” she testified. He then grabbed her by the hair, and pulled her into the bedroom, she said, while starting to cry.
“I just thought, ‘Oh no, here we go again,’ ” the woman said. “He said, ‘You’re my dog, you’re my dog,’ I felt degraded and horrible.”
Nardi then threw her on the bed and pinned her down with his hands and body, she testified. He took his underwear off and shoved it into her mouth, pushing it inside her throat.
“I thought, ‘He’s going to kill me this time,’” she said, fighting back tears.
She said she tried to fight back, and caught his tooth with her finger, which started to bleed. She testified that she felt trapped as he placed a pillow over her head and began hitting her. The pillow was used so that she would not be bruised, she said.
Photographs that were taken during a medical examination on the afternoon of April 6 — entered as court exhibits on Thursday — depicted bruised arms, marks on her lip and face, and red eyelids.
The woman also testified that Nardi held her eyelids open as he spit into her eyes. He also would alternately try to strangle her with his hands or suffocate her with the pillow, she said. He also poured water down her throat and nostrils, the woman recalled.
She also remembered that he began to fill up the bathtub with water, and she thought he would try to drown her, but he gave up, allegedly saying “it would take too long.” He also sexually assaulted her via digital penetration, she said, an act that was painful and which occurred after she had blacked out but began to awake. She stopped resisting, believing it was futile.
After about six hours of the ordeal, as the sun was coming up, he grew tired and went to sleep, but made sure he would know if she tried to leave the room by placing a leg over her body, she said.
Finally, when he left around noon, he warned her that if she tried to contact police he would kill her, the woman said. But as soon as she found her telephone, which he had hidden, she called 911.
A recording of the 911 call was played for the jury on Thursday, as was videotape of what appeared to be an instance of Nardi forcibly pulling her away from the bar at Su Casa during the April 1 incident. The video does not show what she contends — that he struck her. It does show him pulling her out of the security camera’s frame.
Earlier in her testimony, she described a relationship that started out wonderfully, in August 2012. She had recently ended a 22-year marriage. Nardi was charming, often showering her with flowers and other gifts, and spoke of how he loved her and how perfect they were together.
But it wasn’t long, the woman testified, that he began to exhibit controlling behavior. He grew jealous when she would go out with friends while he was working, and asked her to text message photographs of where she was hanging out. A cycle of arguments and make-up sex evolved, but by February 2013 she began to plan her exit, she said.
She would often rekindle her relationship after jealous or obsessive episodes because Nardi spoke of how he couldn’t bear to be without her, the woman testified, adding that he had a “Jekyll/Hyde” personality.
However, during opening arguments on Thursday, Colleen Scissors, one of Nardi’s two defense attorneys, spoke of how the woman was the controlling party in the relationship. She was rich and beautiful, and Nardi was “starstruck” by her when they met and began dating.
The woman was using Nardi because he knew a lot of people in Aspen, Scissors suggested.
“She wanted him for her sex toy,” Scissors said. Her attempt to control him was evident when she paid a lot of money to have his gray hairs on his head removed, as well as the hair on his back.
She even tried to control his conversations, often telling him in public to “Zip it!” Scissors said.
The defense attorney alleged that the woman even manipulated Aspen police investigators, and crossed out certain words in medical reports that were later sent from her doctor in Texas to the Aspen Police Department.
Scissors said that the woman physically abused Nardi during the relationship and was arrested for DUI one night when she decided to leave the house without him when he didn’t feel like partying.
The woman, the defense attorney said, grew furious on Valentine’s Day 2013 when Nardi was bartending at a private party. She didn’t want to be there, and at one point “gouged him with her fingernails,” Scissors said. She drank often, regularly carrying a flask of alcohol in her purse, and berated Nardi in front of her children when they would visit Aspen.
Scissors also noted that the woman had consensual sex with Nardi not long before the alleged April 6 confrontation. However, the woman said she only had sex with Nardi in the days leading up to April 6 as a way of bringing closure to the situation, both for her and for him.
Nardi, 51, is accused of felony sexual assault and attempted assault, also a felony. The sexual-assault charge alone carries a sentence of eight years to life in prison.
He also faces two misdemeanor counts, assault and false imprisonment. Handling the case for the 9th Judicial District Attorney’s Office are Andrea Bryan and Jason Slothouber, who work out of Aspen.
The trial is scheduled to resume at 10 a.m. Thursday with a cross-examination of the alleged victim.