Judge reduces former Aspen bartender’s prison sentence in rape case | AspenTimes.com

Judge reduces former Aspen bartender’s prison sentence in rape case

Peter Nardi, escorted by a Pitkin County jailer, leaves the courthouse in July 2014 following the minimum 15-year sentence District Judge Gail Nichols gave him for his April 2014 conviction on sexual assault and other charges.

A district court judge resentenced a former Aspen bartender convicted of sexual assault in 2014 to six fewer years behind bars Monday because of an error by the trial judge in the case.

Peter Nardi, 55, did not speak in court Monday, though his attorney, public defender Molly Owens, told Pitkin County District Judge Chris Seldin she plans to pursue a claim of ineffective assistance counsel in his case. Neither of the two attorneys who represented Nardi in the case are still practicing law in Colorado, Owens said.

"It's apparent to me … there may be significant issues with the ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claim," she said. Owens declined to answer further questions about the claim.

A Pitkin County jury convicted Nardi in April 2014 of felony sexual assault, felony attempted second-degree sexual assault, felony violation of bail bonds conditions, two counts of misdemeanor assault and misdemeanor false imprisonment. The convictions related to incidents involving a Texas woman Nardi dated from August 2012 to April 2013.

Former district Judge Gail Nichols later sentenced him to 15 years to life in prison for the convictions. The sexual assault conviction carried the longest portion of the prison term, with the judge deciding that he would serve 11 years to life because it represented an "extraordinary risk crime" and was "a crime of violence."

The Colorado Court of Appeals, however, said the judge — who considered a sentencing range of 10 to 32 years — made that determination in error. That's because in order to be considered an extraordinary risk crime and a crime of violence, it had to involve assault with a deadly weapon, serious bodily injury, or a victim 15 years old or younger. Nardi's crime did not involve those criteria.

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Nichols should have used a sentencing range of four to 10 years in handing down the sentence for sexual assault, the Court of Appeals said.

So on Monday, Seldin followed Nichols' initial sentence and gave Nardi one more year than the minimum in the sentencing range. That means he will face five years to life on the sexual assault conviction, and four more years based on the judge's error-free sentence on the other convictions.

Nardi now faces a total sentence of nine years to life, though he's already served four years behind bars.

However, it's not clear how much longer he will be in prison.

Nardi cannot be released from prison until he admits he's guilty of the sexual assault and completes an intense sex-offender rehabilitation program. He doesn't even become eligible for that treatment until he has four or fewer years left on his sentence, Owens said Monday.

Nardi has consistently maintained his innocence in the case, Owens said. That means he either stays in prison for life or lies about his true feelings and completes the sex-offender treatment program, though that requires passing a polygraph test, she said.

Nardi has been attacked in prison because of the charges he was convicted of, Owens said.

Seldin said he would review the ineffective assistance of counsel complaint.

jauslander@aspentimes.com