Defense lawyer explains Peter Nardi’s skipping court

Andre Salvail
The Aspen Times

The attorney who is representing Aspen bartender Peter Nardi on a sexual-assault charge and other legal problems took partial responsibility Monday in Pitkin County District Court for Nardi’s missing a scheduled Sept. 16 court date and his subsequent disappearance.

During a wide-ranging court hearing to set trial dates and to discuss bond amounts, defense lawyer John Van Ness told Judge Gail Nichols that in mid-August he stressed to Nardi that he would need to hire an additional lawyer and a private investigator, as well as budget payments for expert witnesses and DNA testing, to assist his case.

Nardi recently had lost his bartending job at Su Casa when Van Ness hit him with the unwelcome information, Van Ness aid.

“(I told him) that more money was needed,” Van Ness said. “At that point … he was deeply despondent over the prospect of losing his attorney. He had already applied for a public defender back in May and had been rejected.”

Nichols agreed to lower Nardi’s combined bonds in three separate criminal cases from $33,500 to $15,000. Van Ness also had argued that Nardi remains employable and that the money he makes from a new job would help him with his legal expenses.

“It is the season for hiring bartenders for the winter,” Van Ness said.

Nardi officially was charged with sexual assault and attempted assault, both felonies, in early May following an alleged incident on April 6 involving his then-girlfriend. He has denied the charges in interviews with local media and also in court, pleading not guilty on Oct. 7. That same day, he also pleaded not guilty on subsequent charges of violating bond conditions.

He has been jailed twice since April 6 on the bond-violation accusations. On June 12, his birthday, Aspen police arrested him following allegations that he was drinking on May 31 at the Hotel Jerome’s J-Bar. On Sept. 11, Nichols signed an arrest warrant based on another police investigation that indicated he had been drinking at Justice Snow’s.

Sept. 16 was the date for Nardi’s arraignment on the sexual-assault charge and first bond violation, but he did not show up. After a search, Aspen police and Pitkin County sheriff’s deputies found him early the morning of Sept. 17 at a residence on King Street after receiving a tip from a friend who was concerned about his safety.

His jury-trial date for the sexual-assault case previously was set for April 8 to 11. On Monday, Nichols set two separate two-day trials to deal with the bond-violation cases: May 12 and 13 and May 14 and 15. Nardi waived all of his rights to a speedy trial, allowed by law within 180 days of his Oct. 7 arraignment.

Aspen prosecutor Andrea Bryan argued against lowering the $33,500 bond. She said Nardi has “a pattern of ignoring court orders” and that Nardi is a proven flight risk.

Though Nichols lowered the bond, she agreed with Bryan in part, saying that Nardi showed “lack of respect for the court.” She also said that if Nardi bonds out, he will need permission from the court to take a bartending job.

Nichols said that given the two alleged bond violations, she isn’t sure whether Nardi should seek employment that revolves around nightlife.

“It’s like setting him up to fail,” she said.

Van Ness sought to assure the judge that Nardi’s defense arrangements have been shored up and that his client’s concerns have been alleviated.

“I don’t see him going into a deep depression about that again,” Van Ness said.