Aspen bartender Peter Nardi is expected to testify in his own defense today against sexual-assault allegations made by a Texas woman he dated from August 2012 to April 2013.
Nardi, 51, also is accused of felony attempted assault and two misdemeanors. The charges stem from the woman’s report to Aspen police on the afternoon of April 6, 2013, that Nardi physically and sexually abused her that same day, in the wee hours of the morning, at the South Mill Street condominium she was renting. The woman has testified to “hours of torture” at Nardi’s hands, and she has descibed him as being controlling and jealous throughout most of their relationship.
Nardi has been standing trial since April 8 and maintains that he is innocent of the charges. On Wednesday in Pitkin County District Court, prosecutors wrapped up their case, calling Carolyn Sackariason, editor of the Aspen Daily News, as their last witness.
Sackariason was asked to read from a Sept. 17 news article pertaining to Nardi’s failure to appear for a court hearing on Sept. 16, which led to a warrant for his arrest. She had interviewed Nardi by phone — as police were looking for him — and the story quoted him as saying, “I never did this ... this is out of control. I am not going to be controlled by the court. ... I will face my own demise.”
Some of the first witnesses called by the defense were queried about Nardi’s state of mind during the days before his failure to appear for the hearing.
Bonnie Chance, a longtime friend, said she didn’t know Nardi had a court appearance when he asked if he could stay at her house for a few days, sleeping on the sofa.
Nardi was depressed and crying, she said, because his attorney had filed a motion to withdraw from the case. He was arrested at her home in the early morning hours of Sept. 17.
Another friend, Gary Murray, testified that a despondent Nardi came to his apartment on Sept. 14 and left three letters in his care, one of which was addressed to the alleged victim. Nardi told Murray not to contact police about the letters, Murray said.
“He was a very broken man,” Murray said. “He was not himself.”
He said he turned the letters over to police after Nardi was arrested.
During a short break, with jurors away from the courtroom, discussion among District Judge Gail Nichols, who is presiding over the trial, prosecutors and defense attorneys centered on the nature of the letters — described in one instance as suicide notes.
Prosecutor Andrea Bryan said jurors should not be allowed to hear about the contents of the letters, suggesting the information wasn’t relevant to the charges against Nardi and would only serve as an attempt to gain sympathy.
Also on Wednesday, defense attorney Colleen Scissors called for an acquittal or mistrial, claiming that the court had severely limited Nardi’s right to mount a full defense by not allowing her and co-counsel John Van Ness to rebut “certain concepts or themes” when prosecutors opened the door to them during questioning of their own witnesses.
For example, the alleged victim testifed about how Nardi had tried to control her, statements the defense should have been allowed to address immediately by introducing evidence that Nardi was actually the one being controlled, Scissors said.
She said that throughout the trial there have been “all kinds of things we weren’t allowed to get into.”
Nichols denied Scissors’ motion. The judge said prosecutors had a right to make a case in the manner of their choosing and that the defense, during its own presentation, still could introduce relevant evidence it believes has been missing from the trial.
Jurors will decide what weight to give to evidence from both sides, Nichols added.