Aspen yoga case set for trial -again
June 23, 2010
ASPEN – After another round of failed plea negotiations, the case of a former Aspen yoga instructor accused of improperly touching some of his clients is headed back to trial.
On Tuesday, Pitkin County Judge Erin Fernandez-Ely scheduled Steven Jon Roger, 49, to stand a three-day jury trial beginning Sept. 8.
The pending trial comes after the prosecution and Roger have struggled to reach a settlement in the case, which dates back to the former O2 Aspen yoga teacher’s arrest on Jan. 8, 2009. At the time, Roger faced felony charges of sexual assault, but they were dropped.
Now he’s fighting misdemeanor charges connected to unlawful sexual conduct with his yoga clients, dating back to alleged incidents with one student on March 12, 2008, the other on April 12, 2008.
The September trial will mark the third time a trial has been scheduled in the case: One was set in March, the other in June. Both were canceled after the prosecution and defense appeared to have reached a settlement.
But the settlement talks continued to prove futile, most recently this month, after an agreement had been reached in which Roger would plead no contest to unlawful sexual conduct.
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According to the agreement, the no-contest plea would have resulted in a deferred judgment of two years. Roger faced no jail time or public service as part of the deal, according to court records.
But Roger has decided to take the case to trial, said his attorney, Tamas Viski-Hanka of Denver. Roger simply could not plead no contest to a charge he felt was unfounded, Viski-Hanka said after Tuesday’s briefing.
“He said he cannot commit to this,” Viski-Hanka said. “Sometimes you have to bow your head and say you are going to trial.”
Viski-Hanka said the only way the case will not go to trial is if the prosecution dismisses the case entirely.
“That’s the only thing that would satisfy us,” he said.
The prosecution claims that Roger, without consent, intentionally touched intimate parts (either the breast, genitalia or anus, as defined by Colorado law) of his clients for the purpose of sexual arousal, gratification or abuse.
Roger was originally charged in April 2009 with two felony charges of sexual assault. But Senior District Judge James Edwin Rutland dismissed those counts in May, ruling there was insufficient evidence for Roger to face the charges. The judge found that intrusion did not occur.