Jury begins deliberation in Silverthorne sexual assault trial
Summit Daily News
Editor’s note: A digest of trial coverage can be found here.
EAGLE — The jury heard closing statements and began deliberation on Monday afternoon in the trial of Justin Cayce Erwin, one of four men accused of sexually assaulting a women in a Silverthorne apartment on St. Patrick’s Day in 2016.
District Attorney Bruce Brown and prosecutor Lisa Hunt, as well as Ashley Petrey for the defense, stepped in front of the jury one final time Monday afternoon to provide emotionally charged closing statements, providing a broad range of arguments rooted in everything from hard facts, a culture of sexual assault, stigma, popular culture and more.
Hunt gave the initial statement on behalf of the prosecution, telling a brutal narrative of a woman waking up naked, confused and hurt after a night of sexual assault by four different men.
“Erwin, like many perpetrators, prayed on the weakness of [the accuser],” said Hunt. “He saw that she was vulnerable, her boyfriend had left, she was on a high and getting drunker and drunker throughout the night.”
Hunt argued to the jury that no woman in her right mind would consent to the “level of disgustingness” that was engaged in during the videos captured of the alleged assault. She also pointed to the considerable level of injuries the woman was left with the following morning as proof the sex wasn’t consensual.
“It’s not that one person took her home, it’s that four men in their 40s did nothing to help her,” said Hunt. “Instead they took advantage of her…and then tried to deny it. She went out smiling, but came home broken, bruised and battered.”
In Petrey’s closing statements for the defense, she called Hunt’s assertion that no woman would consent to such acts as “antiquated and sexist,” providing the jury with sex-positive examples in pop culture over recent years, such as “50 Shades of Grey,” to imply a social shift in hegemony in the way modern Americans view sex.
“Don’t let the government convince you this is beyond expectation,” said Petrey. “Consensual group sex is not outside the realm of possibilities. It’s happening every day.”
Petrey pointed to perceived holes in the prosecutions case — why the video of the final interview between Erwin and detective Theresa Barger wasn’t shown, why blood and urine samples of the accuser weren’t sent to the Colorado Department of Investigation and why the prosecution didn’t address the fact that cocaine was found in the accuser’s system — as the seeds of reasonable doubt.
She asserted that not only did the prosecution not provide sufficient evidence that the accuser was too inebriated to consent to the group sex acts that took place that night, but also that they didn’t do enough to prove that Erwin would have been able to tell she was inebriated.
“It’s not about whether you think Erwin is a liar, or if you approve of his behavior,” said Petrey. “The government not only has to prove [the accuser] didn’t consent, but also that Erwin knew she didn’t consent to these acts. There is no way they can prove that to you beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Finally, Petrey went on the offensive against the accuser, questioning the credibility of her testimony as it relates to her memory loss on the night in question and her motives for potentially creating a false narrative.
“She knew what she wanted and how she wanted it,” said Petrey. “She woke up in the morning and the fantasy wasn’t as good as she expected…it’s a lot easier to be labeled a victim than a slut.”
In the prosecution’s final rebuttal, District Attorney Brown urged the jury not to get sucked into speculative ideas such as a possible reputational motive and the perpetuation of what he called myths and stereotypes surrounding sexual assault victims.
Brown also rebuked Petrey’s contention that Erwin was being victimized in the case, pointing to many examples of Erwin lying to law enforcement officials and the fact he inserted himself into the situation.
“It’s clear, despite the defense’s attempts to show [the accuser] as aware, that she wasn’t,” said Brown. “Everyone said they wouldn’t serve her, she was out of it, on something, drunk…a vulnerable person shouldn’t be consenting to sex. It’s a simple fact, and applied properly means [Erwin] is guilty of all 20 counts.”
Erwin is charged with 12 counts of sexual assault, three counts of unlawful sexual contact, four counts of invasion of privacy for sexual gratification and one count of conspiracy to commit invasion of privacy for sexual gratification. The jury went into deliberation for about half an hour at 5:30 p.m. Monday and will continue deliberation at 8:30 on Tuesday morning.
Two of the cases stemming from the alleged assault have already been adjudicated. Paul Garvin was convicted of a Class 2 sexual assault in Summit County District court in October. Michael Gelber pleaded guilty to a reduced felony charge and two misdemeanors in June. Ramon Villa, whose apartment the alleged assault took place in, pleaded not guilty to felony charges in December. Villa is scheduled to go to court in Eagle in September.