Man convicted of assault

Sybrandt faces punishment for array of other charges

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— One year and one day after a 31-year-old Clark man was arrested on suspicion of breaking into a Steamboat Springs office and fondling a woman, a jury of eight men and four women found the man guilty of unlawful sexual contact, second-degree burglary, false imprisonment and violating a protection order.

In August, Michael Louis Sybrandt pleaded not guilty to the charges after he and his attorney, public defender Trevor McFee, were not able to reach a plea agreement with Assistant District Attorney Kerry St. James.

The two-day trial began at 8 a.m. Thursday with a 10-hour jury selection and concluded at about 3:30 p.m. Friday when the jury declared Sybrandt guilty on all four charges.

According to court testimony Friday, Sybrandt turned himself in to the Routt County Sheriff's Office on Feb. 9, 2005, after he walked into the woman's office, took off his clothes, fondled her breasts and gyrated his body against hers. Sybrandt also attempted to restrain the woman by grabbing her arm and shirt, which was ripped during the altercation.

During her testimony Friday, the woman said she was able to free herself from Sybrandt and ran to a downstairs office, where she called police.

St. James called five witnesses during the trial -- three police officers, a court employee and the victim, all of whom told the court the woman had a restraining order against Sybrandt.

Steamboat Springs police Officer Gerard Geis was the first person to question Sybrandt the day of the crime. Geis told the court that Sybrandt told him he had "done something bad" and eventually told him he broke into the office, attacked the woman, whom he knew, and attempted to keep her from calling police.

Geis also said Sybrandt told him he was sexually aroused during the altercation -- pivotal aspect in proving that a sexual assault took place. If a defendant isn't aroused when committing a sexually motivated crime, it can be more difficult to prove it was sexual assault, St. James told the jury.

Sybrandt was the defense's only witness. In a soft and shaky voice, he told the court he has suffered from severe bouts of depression throughout his life --outs that often cause him to consider suicide.

Sybrandt said he had an argument with his father on the day of the sexual assault and felt a bout of depression coming on. After the argument, Sybrandt said he decided to drive to Steamboat, where he saw the woman's car and felt the need to contact her "in a non-threatening way."

"Everything seemed to be OK until I got to town. I saw (her) car and it drummed up a lot of pent-up feelings I didn't understand. I didn't understand how she thought I would kill her," Sybrandt said, referring to the protection order the woman placed against him in January 2005.

Sybrandt admitted to walking into her office nude, but he said he did so only to show the woman that he did not have a gun or knife. Sybrandt said he touched her because he needed a hug and because he trusted her from their previous professional relationship.

Sybrandt said he tried grabbing the woman after the incident to comfort her, not to stop her from calling police.

"I wanted to stop her because I wanted to talk to her. I reached around and basically gave her a hug. I thought she needed comforting after what just happened, and I needed it, too, like a mother's hug," he said.

McFee argued that because of Sybrandt's state of mind, he did not understand what he was doing or what he was saying to police immediately after the incident.

During his closing remarks, McFee said Sybrandt was not sexually aroused during the incident, even though the victim said he was and despite Sybrandt's previous admission. McFee said that if Sybrandt really wanted to sexually assault the woman, he would have. But he chose not to because that was not his intent.

"This is someone who needed help. You don't need a doctor to tell you that he was so out of it, so mentally ill, that he wasn't thinking rationally or knowingly," McFee said.

St. James disagreed.

"On (Feb. 9, 2005), Mr. Sybrandt was willing to take responsibility for his actions. Today he seems to be escaping from taking any responsibility for what he did," St. James said.

St. James also mentioned a 2003 incident in which Sybrandt pleaded guilty to indecent exposure after exposing himself to a woman at a Steamboat Springs laundromat.

On Friday, the jury convicted Sybrandt after less than one hour of deliberation.

Sybrandt will be sentenced at 2 p.m. April 14.

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