Aspen bartender Peter Nardi pleads not guilty to sexual assault | AspenTimes.com

Aspen bartender Peter Nardi pleads not guilty to sexual assault

Andre Salvail
The Aspen Times

Aspen bartender Peter Nardi pleaded not guilty Monday in Pitkin County District Court to the sexual-assault charge for which he was arrested in April.

His lawyer, John Van Ness, also entered pleas of not guilty in two alleged bond violations that have arisen since Nardi's arrest. Van Ness also withdrew a motion he entered last month in which he sought to withdraw as Nardi's counsel.

After conferring with Van Ness and Aspen felony prosecutor Andrea Bryan, District Judge Gail Nichols set a trial date in the sexual-assault case for April 8 to 11. Trials for the two separate bond-violation allegations were set aside, for now, with the sexual-assault charge taking top priority. There were no requests from the defense or the District Attorney's Office to consolidate the cases.

Nichols said it was logical that the trial on the more serious charge should be placed first in the order because "what happens in the first case will influence what happens in the other two."

Nardi has been held in the Pitkin County Jail since his Sept. 17 arrest on the second bond-violation charge. Officers from the Aspen Police Department and Pitkin County Sheriff's Office searched for him for more than three hours early that morning following a tip from a concerned friend who called 911 and expressed concern that he might be suicidal, according to police records.

Currently, his bail amount is $32,500. He was accused of the first bond violation in June. Both stemmed from separate investigations showing he had consumed alcohol in two Aspen bars, Justice Snow's in the Wheeler Opera House building and the J-Bar at the Hotel Jerome.

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In court, Van Ness mentioned that he has information that may affect Nardi's bond, which he believes is too high. Nichols scheduled a conference to address bond and other matters on Oct. 21. The filing of pre-trial motions are due by Dec. 20.

Nardi, 51, has always maintained his innocence on the sexual-assault charge, the result of an alleged April 6 incident that police say occurred at his ex-girlfriend's residence. The sexual-assault count is a felony that carries a minimum prison term of eight years and maximum term of life.

The woman told police that Nardi took her captive in her apartment, forced water down her throat, beat her, covered her with a pillow, shoved his underwear down her throat, sexually assaulted her and threatened to kill her if she called authorities.

In an affidavit for a warrantless arrest, Aspen police officer Terry Leitch said he noticed bruising on the accuser's jaw, forearms, wrist, right elbow and upper right arm in addition to a small cut on one of her middle fingers.

Nardi's history of brushes with local law enforcement date back to April 2000, when he was charged with larceny and vehicle theft in Pitkin County. He ended up serving jail time and receiving two years of probation on an embezzlement conviction.

asalvail@aspentimes.com

In other court news:

A Basalt man who has been held in the Pitkin County Jail since mid-July on sexual-assault charges involving two young girls received another postponement of his arraignment Monday.

Public defender Sara Steele, who is representing Felix Santana-Penaloza in the matter, told Pitkin County District Judge Gail Nichols that she is reviewing discovery information and asked for a new arraignment date. Nichols agreed to Nov. 4 but added that she would be displeased with any further continuances.

Steele told Nichols that she received a plea offer from the District Attorney’s Office last week and that she needed more time to discuss it with prosecutors.

Santana-Penaloza, 50, faces a potential life term in prison. Assistant Aspen Police Chief Linda Consuegra collected a confession from him in which he allegedly admitted to authorities that the victims weren’t lying, according to an affidavit in support of his arrest warrant that was written July 19 by Detective Walter Chi.

“(He) admitted to having a problem, and wanted to take responsibility for his actions,” Chi’s affidavit says.

Santana-Penaloza faces two felony charges of sexual assault on a child under 15 by a person in a position of trust. He is being held under $500,000 bond.

The allegations initially were brought to the attention of the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office, which forwarded the case to authorities in Aspen, where the crimes allegedly occurred.

In other District Court business Monday:

  • Esbilmer Perez-Ruano, 30, of Basalt, faces a felony charge of criminal impersonation following an investigation into an alleged series of early-September thefts at the Thrift Shop of Aspen early last month. Aspen police say when he was arrested on suspicion of theft on Sept. 9, he gave a false name. After the error was discovered, he was arrested again, on Oct. 2, in Basalt.
  • On Monday, Perez-Ruano was back in court for a formal filing of charges. Steele requested more time to review information in his case. Nichols set Oct. 21 as the date for Perez-Ruano’s next court appearance. Meanwhile, the Guatamalan man will remain in the Pitkin County Jail under an immigration hold.
  • James Regan, 24, of Aspen — who led police on a short, slow-speed chase up Maroon Creek Road on Sept. 13 after calling authorities to say that he anticipated a confrontation with them — also was back in court for a formal filing of charges. He faces one count each of vehicular eluding, reckless driving, speeding and obstructing a police officer.
  • Steele told Nichols that she needed more time to seek a resolution in the case through discussions with the District Attorney’s Office. Nichols set his next court appearance for Oct. 21. Regan remains in the Pitkin County Jail under $100,000 bond.

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