Vail Valley man pleads guilty to sexual assault | VailDaily.com

Vail Valley man pleads guilty to sexual assault

Sergio Sandoval claims alcohol was the cause

Sergio Sandoval says alcohol clouded his judgement when he had sex with a woman who was too impaired to understand what was happening.

EAGLE — Sergio Sandoval told a judge Monday that excessive drinking led him to sexually assault a woman who was unable to realize what was happening to her in the summer of 2017.

“I hate myself for doing what I did. It’s the worst mistake of my life,” Sandoval said after pleading guilty.

In a hearing before District Court Judge Russell Granger, Chief Deputy District Attorney Joe Kirwan read the victim’s statement.

“It upsets me to think that my life has changed because of his choices,” she wrote. “I fear that my fear won’t vanish. I don’t enjoy traveling. I don’t enjoy anything.”

“I felt guilty for feeling weak,” she wrote.

Jim Fahrenholtz, Sandoval’s defense attorney, said people are often in the criminal justice system because of alcohol.

“That’s the case for Mr. Sandoval. He would like to prove to everyone that this was an isolated case caused by alcohol,”Fahrenholtz said.

What police say happened

It was the summer of 2017 and Sandoval’s victim lived in employee housing in Avon. She and some coworkers went out after work and encountered Sandoval while they were in an Avon bar.

She said became highly intoxicated and was vomiting on herself, Kirwan said. Her friends took her back to her apartment and put her in the shower, fully clothed, to wash her clothing and hair.

They left. He stayed. That’s when he assaulted her, Kirwan said.

Sandoval told police that a few hours later when he went to her apartment to check on her, she asked him to stay, Kirwan said.

Sandoval told Judge Granger that he and the woman had had a relationship of sorts, holding hands and occasionally kissing in public. He said he thought it might develop into a dating relationship.

Sandoval said he “knew” she wanted to have sex with him because of her “suggestive body language,” Kirwan told Judge Granger.

“That is untrue to the extent that it’s laughable,” Kirwan told the judge. “She was vomiting and her friends put her in the shower to wash it off her.”

She soon went to the Avon police and reported that she had been raped.

Sandoval initially told police he did not have sex with her. DNA evidence later proved that he did, Kirwan said.

“What disturbs the court is that you continued to deny it until the prosecution produced DNA evidence,” Judge Granger said. “In this offense, there is a very major lack of honesty.”

The recommended sentencing range is only 60 days in jail and probation, Kirwan said.

“In many states, he would automatically be sent to prison, which is what the victim requested,” Kirwan said. “He has a minimal criminal history, but in this case he did something bad. Quite bad.”

Granger remanded Sandoval to the Eagle County jail until his sentencing hearing on Feb. 25 at 10 a.m.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vaildaily.com.