Peter Nardi has his story, and he’s sticking to it. But there’s one problem when it comes to believing Nardi: He’s been a habitual liar ever since he got caught up in Pitkin County’s legal system 15 years ago.
On Monday, Nardi, a well-known and popular Aspen bartender, essentially was sentenced to 15 years to life in state prison in the wake of an April jury verdict in which he was found guilty of sexual assault and lesser charges.
All along, Nardi has insisted that he didn’t commit the heinous crimes that his ex-girlfriend, of Texas, had alleged.
Maybe Nardi, twice a convicted felon, has been telling the truth. During his campaign-of-innocence tour with the Aspen media last year, he dropped by The Aspen Times and asked, rhetorically, “Do I look like a rapist?”
How do you answer a question like that, rhetorical or not? Yet Nardi has used his good looks and charisma to his advantage over the years. The papers have covered him on and off for 15 years, from the time the state pulled his real-estate license because he illegally pocketed rental fees from properties he managed, to his flight from justice when he shut down his Snowmass Village restaurant owing the state more than $40,000 in taxes.
In most every civil and criminal case against Nardi — and there have been many — he’s cunningly deflected the blame on others.
Yet still, Nardi has his supporters, and there were nearly a dozen at Monday’s sentencing hearing in Pitkin County District Court. They spoke of his decency, charm, friendship and gentlemanly nature. Ten people wrote letters to the court as character witnesses supporting Nardi. Some also blamed the victim, as many people in town have. The victim has been painted as a high-society woman who drinks too much and wreaks havoc on men.
“I can’t blame any of your friends for blaming the victim,” Nichols told Nardi. “From their point of view, they didn’t see that at all. ... I have no problem with that.”
Yet Nichols also suggested that perhaps Nardi met his match with his latest lover, an independent woman whom Nardi couldn’t control. She flirted with other men in his presence and clearly pushed his buttons.
Prosecutor Andrea Bryan certainly didn’t withhold her opinion of Nardi’s actions, calling them “evil,” “sadistic” and “brutal.” Likewise, the victim painted Nardi as a sexual deviant who should spend the rest of his life in prison: “He needs to be an old feeble man that cannot hurt another woman.”
Nardi’s attorney, John Van Ness, couldn’t help but defend his client. “There’s only two people that know what happened. That’s Peter Nardi and (the victim).” Van Ness later offered that Nardi will be in a tough position because if he doesn’t confess to the crime, he won’t be able to satisfy the legal system’s demands in order to be released from prison.
Van Ness was definitely right about one thing: No one really knows what happened that night. The victim claims that when she returned from a night on the town, Nardi was sitting in her place before he attacked her by smothering her face with a pillow, shoving his underwear in her mouth, pouring water into her nose and mouth and forcing her to pass out. She also claimed that he spit in her eyes and digitally penetrated her. For all we know, it could have been a drunken night of coked-up debauchery between Nardi and the victim, and neither party’s hands are clean.
But in the end, the jury believed the victim over Nardi. Juries have been wrong before, but it’s difficult to believe that Nardi didn’t commit a crime.
Nardi, however, isn’t budging from his repeated declarations of innocence. He plans to appeal the verdict so he can have a new trial.
Yet it doesn’t take an expert to see Nardi for who he is — a chronic liar who’s skipped court appearances and fibbed to his probation officers over the years. But now we’re supposed to believe he didn’t unleash this despicable behavior on this woman?
Given Nardi’s history of deceit, that’s just a tough sell.
Rick Carroll is editor of The Aspen Times. He takes comments, complaints, questions and news tips at firstname.lastname@example.org.