An Air Force cadet accused of raping a fellow cadet while the two were partying in Boulder last year could spend the rest of his life in prison after being found guilty of sexual assault in a split verdict Wednesday.
A Boulder County jury convicted Daniel Ryerson, 22, of sexual assault on a victim incapable of appraising her condition, which carries a minimum sentence of 2 to 6 years in prison. Under Colorado's indeterminate sentencing law, Ryerson could be sentenced to up to life in prison.
The jury, however, also acquitted Ryerson of charges of sexual assault on a physically helpless victim and second-degree kidnapping.
"This case was especially tragic because it involved a tragic violation of trust between fellow Air Force cadets and because of the brutal manner in which it was committed," Boulder County District Attorney Stan Garnett said.
John Pineau, Ryerson's attorney, couldn't be reached for comment Wednesday night.
At issue was an episode inside a bathroom at a party in Boulder that Ryerson and his victim attended -- their last stop in an evening of heavy drinking.
Deputy District Attorney Caryn Datz said in closing arguments Tuesday that on Nov. 1, 2014, the night of the alleged attack, Ryerson "watched her at that party, led her into the bathroom, locked the door, and raped her."
"And after that he continued to groom (her) so that she would continue to believe that this man was her trusted friend, her wingman and would never harm her," Datz added. "And he continued to groom others, including the police, so that they would be steered in other directions."
Pineau's closing argument Tuesday focused on multiple discrepancies he alleged in the timeline that the prosecution had put together.
Notably, he said, the only witness whose testimony placed Ryerson and the woman inside the bathroom where the act in question took place was gone from the party by midnight, a point at which the victim, by her own admission, had only begun to black out.
"She testified that she held that first drink for an hour and she did not lose her memory until she finished it," Pineau said. "She says she maintains her memory until midnight. That's the only time they could be in the bathroom, because (the witness) was gone after that point."
He implored the jury to consider the timeframe issue as a possible means to a not-guilty verdict.
"It is a horrible inconsistency," he said. "It is what we call reasonable doubt."
After Ryerson's closing argument, Deputy District Attorney Catrina Weigel addressed the jury.
"This defendant didn't have sloppy, messy sex with her. He raped her," Weigel said. "This was a sex assault."