A Pitkin County jury on Friday found longtime Aspen-area resident and bartender Peter Nardi guilty of felony sexual assault and other charges following a nine-day trial. The sexual-assault charge carries a mandatory sentence of eight years to life.
Nardi, 51, also was found guilty of two other felonies: attempted second-degree assault and violation of bail-bond conditions. In addition, the eight-man, four-woman jury found him to be guilty of three misdemeanors: two for assault and one for false imprisonment.
District Judge Gail Nichols read the verdict to Nardi at 4:10 p.m. following less than four hours of jury deliberations. Prosecutors Andrea Bryan and Jason Slothouber and defense attorney Colleen Scissors presented their closing arguments between 9:30 a.m. and noon.
Following the verdict, Bryan said she was pleased with the outcome.
“We think that justice was served,” she said. “It was a very difficult case all around, and exhausting.”
Bryan added that she had always been confident in the prosecution’s case.
A Texas woman whom Nardi dated from August 2012 to April 2013, alleged sexual and physical abuse at Nardi’s hands. She said Nardi was jealous and controlling throughout much of their relationship.
Most of the charges and testimony related to an hours-long ordeal said to have occurred at her rented South Mill Street condominium early in the morning of April 6, 2013.
After Nardi left her home before noon that day, the woman reported the incident to Aspen police, and Nardi was arrested later that day.
Nichols set a sentencing date of July 7 at 3 p.m. Bryan asked Nichols to remand Nardi to custody of the Pitkin County Jail without bond based on the violent nature of the crimes and Nardi’s record of missing court appearances.
“He is facing mandatory prison in this case,” Bryan said.
Co-defense counsel John Van Ness requested that Nardi be released on bond “in the $20,000 range,” noting Nardi’s limited financial resources.
Nichols agreed to Bryan’s request. “I also am concerned for Mr. Nardi’s mental health” in light of the verdict, the judge said. “I will set no bond at this time.”
Nardi had no expression when the verdict was read. The woman shed a few tears, composed herself and then left the courthouse with a coat over her head to avoid a photographer. Nardi was placed in handcuffs by a sheriff’s deputy and led to the jail.
Jurors, who have been reporting to the courthouse since April 8, left the building quickly.
As for the April 6, 2013, incident, the woman reported, and testified last week, that Nardi was waiting at her house in the dark when she returned from a party around 12:30 a.m.
As she was changing into her bedclothes, she said he became angry and shoved her into a towel rack in the bathroom. He then dragged her by the hair to the bedroom, where he proceeded to pin her down. Over the course of several hours until the sun came up, he smothered her face with a pillow while beating her on each side of the head.
He also forcefully poured water into her nose and mouth, she said, and shoved his underwear into her mouth. She had trouble breathing, and at one point passed out, the woman said. She also claimed that Nardi opened her eyelids with his fingers and spit into them. He also sexually assaulted her via digital penetration.
Nardi took the stand in his own defense on Thursday but appeared reluctant to address Slothouber’s questions directly, often answering “I don’t recall” or “If you say so.”
He claimed that his accuser was the aggressor and that she became bruised from the force of her own attacks as he put his hands and arms up to defend himself. He also denied that he forced water or underwear down her throat.
Co-defense attorney Colleen Scissors said during her closing that the alleged victim used Nardi for Aspen social and professional contacts to assist her business. She sought to discard Nardi once she had gained a few wealthy contacts, Scissors said.
“Peter Nardi was (her) puppy dog,” Scissors said.
She also said the woman grew anxious after she physically attacked Nardi for a third time during the relationship, drawing blood from him, fearing he was telling his friends about it. She described their conflict as a “he said, she said” situation. Scissors pointed out that the woman sought, and obtained, sex from Nardi during the week before his April 6 arrest, attempting to cast doubt on the sexual-assault allegation.
The woman testified to having sex with Nardi a couple of days before the April 6 ordeal — he temporarily left his bartending job at Su Casa for the quick encounter — and they referred to it in text messages as an “afternoon delight.”
Referring to DNA evidence brought into the trial by prosecutors, Scissors said that DNA obviously would be “everywhere” in a room in which two people in a relationship are sleeping together and having sex.
During the prosecution’s rebuttal of Scissors’ closing, Slothouber referred again to the control that Nardi sought during the eight-month relationship. He also brought up testimony concerning “selfie” photographs that Nardi took on April 6, suggesting that Nardi was trying to come up with false evidence to prove that he, not the alleged victim, had been physically abused.
“Make no mistake, we’re talking about something evil,” Slothouber said. “We’re talking about something that came from the darkest places of the human soul. …. His story of what happened is literally impossible.”