April 13, 2018 — The woman Eric Vette assaulted in 2014 stood before the court April 12 and said she hoped one day to be able to forgive him for the trauma he caused.

District Judge Mary Deganhart indicated Vette’s record shows he is predacious and entitled — and said his talk of needing treatment rang hollow, given he had not sought it on his own and had blown previous chances by not complying with court orders.

She ultimately imposed eight years in prison for second-degree assault causing serious bodily injury with an underlying sexual factual basis and as a crime of violence — half as much as the 16 years the prosecution sought, but twice as long as the defense requested. Vette must also register as a sex offender.

“The defendant basically broke into the victim’s house and forcibly had sex with her,” Deputy District Attorney Seth Ryan said. “ … he’s an extreme danger to the community.”

Vette, who apologized to the victim and the court, and his attorney both said he needed substance abuse treatment. They also pointed to abuse he suffered as a child, as did Vette’s mother, who also said she was not attempting to excuse his conduct.

The victim addressed the court first.

“Rape is a violent and ugly word,” she said, telling Deganhart what it meant. “This is a three-and-a-half-year-old memory I have tried hard to (forget).”

The woman explained she encountered Vette in July 2014 as she left her apartment with a friend. He was jogging by and called her name; she remembered him as a friend with whom she’d lost touch.

She, Vette, and several other people wound up visiting at her apartment later in the day and when he left with words to the effect of “see you later,” she didn’t think much of it.

The victim recounted how, after taking prescribed medication, she went to bed. The next thing she remembered was feeling the bed move and seeing a “shadow” crawling toward her, plus the reek of body odor and alcohol.

The woman recounted trying to will her body to move, but that she didn’t have much success, because of the medication. As her body sluggishly attempted to respond, her mind panicked, she said.

“I wanted to get the hell out of there alive,” she said.

Vette choked her, pulled her hair, and sexually assaulted her; acts so painful “I cannot put it into words,” she said.

“Something sacred that I was supposed to share with someone I love had been taken.”

Vette, she said, taunted her with the prospect of pregnancy, by laughing and saying “now you got my baby.” Then, she said, he “slunk out like a coward.”

The woman said she went to a downstairs apartment where others who knew Vette lived, beat on the door, and told them if he ever sexually assaulted her again, she would kill him.

She then went back to her residence, got a knife, called a friend and then, police.

The victim underwent a forensic exam at the hospital and said although she knew it was necessary for the investigation, it also was traumatic.

After her hospital visit, she returned home to shower. “I tried to scrub the nightmare off of me,” the victim said, adding she was “incensed.”

Vette was arrested November 2015 in Alabama on Montrose’s warrant. He initially denied contact with the victim, but when there was a DNA match, he then claimed it was consensual, per what Ryan said in court.

Vette’s psychological assessment showed a compromised ability to delay gratification, Ryan said. The defendant scored high on a risk assessment for re-offense, and for violent recidivism at that, the prosecutor said.

Additionally, per Ryan, Vette endorsed the rape myth that if a woman invites a man to her home, what happens is her fault; Vette also endorsed the myth that unless a woman showed scratches or bruises, a rape did not occur.

“He had a conquer-like attitude … describing himself as a Casanova-type personality,” Ryan said. Vette claimed not to view pornography because he was never wanting for sex and also claimed he once had intercourse with 11 women in one night, the prosecutor said.

Ryan also pointed to Vette’s 2012 conviction for misdemeanor unlawful sexual contact involving a victim incapable of apprising conditions. Vette was caught by the then-Olathe police chief having sexual contact in a van with a person who turned out to be underage. Public defender Patrick Crane said later April 12 that the girl had told his client she was 18.

Vette, however, responded to his legal trouble by three times violating the terms of the probation that was imposed in that case and ultimately had probation revoked.

Further, Vette lost the sentencing concessions he would have had in the current assault case — a six-year cap on prison time — by failing to appear on his initial sentencing date, Ryan noted.

“This shows he is a significant risk to the community,” the DDA said.

“ … The People (the District Attorney’s Office) believe he should be incarcerated as long as possible. We’re asking for 16 years.”

Crane said his client’s conduct was fueled by drug use and by child abuse when he was a minor, as well as having been exposed to “gang influence” starting at age 7.

“I don’t think we can play down the effect all of that has had,” Crane said, proposing a sentence that would involve drug rehabilitation, a shorter prison stint of four years, as well as 10 years or more probation with even more prison hanging over Vette’s head if he failed.

“In 2012, he did not take it seriously. He’d be the first to tell you …. he does see the flaws and understand the issues, but he can’t go backwards with it,” Crane said.

“I do not condone any of Eric’s behavior,” Vette’s mother later said, explaining she, too, had been abused as a child; didn’t talk about it, and modeled that silence to her son.

“I know he needs a lot of help. I wish I could have done that for him,” she said, detailing some of her personal battles that diverted her attention from her family.

“He’s a good kid with a lot of problems. He’s had a lot of trauma happen in his childhood and his life. … He needs a lot of help,” Vette’s mother said.

Vette issued a brief apology. “I would just like to ask for help,” he added.

Deganhart said the attitudes Vette had displayed were “stunning and disturbing.”

“You feel entitled. You take others for granted … You think you can do whatever you want to do. In the past, there haven’t been a lot of consequences,” the judge said.

Deganhart also took note of two more cases Vette picked up after the assault. One was dismissed under plea agreement; the other, which ended with a plea to vehicular eluding, brought him a two-year concurrent prison term.

Giving Vette a community-based sentence for the assault would not be responsible, the judge added.

“I think it says to me you’re something of a predator,” Deganhart said. “ … I think there is a risk to the community.”

The victim in her statement spoke of her faith, saying she has realized her purpose is to be more like Jesus; that her life can be used for God.

Things happen on God’s timeline, she said, quoting the book of Pslams.

“My prayer for you, Eric, is that sliver of what I said today has made its way into your heart,” the survivor said. “ … Someday, with Jesus’ help, I’ll be able to forgive you for what you’ve done to me. Until then, I’ll be praying for both of us.”

Katharhynn Heidelberg is an award-winning journalist and the senior writer for the Montrose Daily Press. Follow her on Twitter @kathMDP.

Montrose Daily Press | April 13, 2018
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