Appeal in the works for disgraced Aspen yogi
December 13, 2010
ASPEN – A yoga instructor has taken steps to appeal a guilty verdict of improperly touching two of his students.
The attorney for Steven Jon Roger, a former teacher at Aspen 02 yoga studio, filed a notice of appeal Friday, claiming numerous “reversible errors” occurred in the September jury trial in Pitkin County Court. The notice was filed in Pitkin County District Court.
It comes after Judge Fernandez-Ely sentenced Roger, 49, to 60 days in jail and four years of probation. Additionally, Roger, who was convicted on two misdemeanor charges of sexual contact, no consent, was fined $10,000 and ordered to perform 120 hours of public service. He also faces a lifetime on the sex offender registry.
Ely, however, suspended the sentence for 30 days because Roger’s attorney, Tamas Viski-Hanka, of Denver, said he would likely appeal the verdict.
Among Viski-Hanka’s contentions in the notice of appeal are that the judge erred by allowing expert testimony from a doctor on the prosecution’s behalf and not permitting expert testimony from another doctor for the defense. The notice also claims the prosecution “did not provide sufficient evidence” to convict Roger on one of the misdemeanors and also committed “prosecutorial misconduct” during the trial’s closing arguments.
Pitkin County prosecutor Richard Nedlin had no comment Friday.
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Roger left his job as a yoga instructor at 02 Aspen studio in January 2009 after he was arrested on allegations that he fondled at least two students during class. At trial, Roger, who lives with his wife in Cortez, Colo., testified that he that he was sensually detached from his students and professed his innocence.
The accusers had a different take. One victim said Roger touched her vagina while he was adjusting her during a yoga position called the child’s pose in a class in April 2008; the second accuser said he touched her anus when she was in the downward-facing dog pose in May 2008.
Much is at stake for Roger if he loses his appeal. As part of a state mandate for sex offenders, Roger must adhere to the following conditions, among others:
• Register on the sex offender list;
• Commit to genetic marker testing;
• Have no contact with any children under 18;
• Not reside with any children under 18;
• Have no contact with the victims;
• Stay away from school yards, parks, playgrounds, swimming pools, arcades and other places frequented by children under 18;
• Inform probation officer of all “significant relationships”;
• No access, possession, utilization or subscription to any sexually oriented or sexually stimulating material;
• Receive a probation officer’s approval before changing residences;
• Abide by a curfew set by the probation officer;
• No hitchhiking or picking up hitchhikers;
• Attend and participate in sex offender evaluation and treatment program;
• Consumption of alcohol is forbidden without permission from probation officer;
• Possession or use of “any mind-altering or consciousness-altering substance” is forbidden unless it’s a prescription;
• Internet use is forbidden;
• and possession of “tunnel focusing devices,” such as a camera or video camera, is not allowed without a probation officer’s permission.