Jeramie Gerhardt gets jail time, probation in Mayhem concert assault

Jeramie Gerhardt, one of two men charged in an assault on another concert-goer during the 2010 Mayhem Festival at the Comfort Dental Amphitheatre, was sentenced last week in Arapahoe County District Court to 75 days in jail and four years of probation for his role in the incident -- while Eric Swanson, his co-defendant in the unusual case, still faces up to 64 years in prison for joining in the attack.

As detailed in our May 24 cover story "Sucker Punch," videos posted on YouTube of fights at the Mayhem metalfest showed Gerhardt and another member of his party -- but not Swanson -- getting into altercations with other fans during the set by Five Finger Death Punch. In one video, a man in a Korn T-shirt, later identified as James Christensen, can be seen chastising Gerhardt for his behavior while another man has Gerhardt in a chokehold.

A few minutes later, no longer on camera, Christensen suffered a broken nose, skull fractures and other injuries after being attacked by at least two men. Witnesses identified the attackers as Gerhardt and Swanson.

Arapahoe County prosecutor Anne Kelly told Westword that she considers Gerhardt and Swanson "equally culpable" for the attack. But Swanson, 35, who was convicted at trial of second-degree assault this spring, is facing a potential decades-long sentence because of drug and theft-related convictions that occurred more than ten years ago. District Attorney Carol Chambers's office routinely files sentence-enhancing habitual criminal charges on defendants with two or three prior felonies on their record, at a rate far in excess of any other DA in the state. In an eighteen-month period in 2010 and 2011, 623 such cases were filed in Chambers's district, compared to 25 habitual criminal cases in Denver in the same time frame.

Gerhardt, 24, has no prior felony record. He pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of felony menacing. His 75 days in jail includes 45 days of work release; in addition, he must complete 200 hours of community service and pay more than $3000 in fees and court assessments.

"He's accepted responsibility for his part in this, and he's going to have to live with this felony on his record the rest of his life," says Gerhardt's attorney, Joseph Sedlak, who describes his client as a hard-working family man.

Sedlak points out that one of the video clips from before the assault shows Gerhardt being "choked out" by another man while Christensen confronted him. "There wasn't one minute of investigation focused on identifying and prosecuting that perpetrator," he notes. "It's an unfortunate situation. I have no reason to disbelieve the victim; Mr. Gerhardt was probably being a bit rowdy out there. But their way of telling him to calm down was to choke him to the point of unconsciousness. When he woke up, he didn't know who had done it."

As our feature discussed, Mayhem concerts have a reputation for heavy moshing and occasional bloodletting. "In the context of that concert, I don't think their behavior was that unusual," Sedlak says. "I'm not diminishing the seriousness of his injuries, but it appears that the victim was at least somewhat involved in what was going on."

Swanson's sentencing hearing is scheduled for later this summer. While Chambers is in her last year as district attorney, a hotly contested race for her job has broken out in the Republican primary between former federal prosecutor George Brauchler and Chambers's longtime second-in-command Leslie Hansen, who has contended that the office's habitual criminal policy has reduced crime in the 18th Judicial District "because prisons are full."

More from our Prison Life archive: "Update: Photos from supermax lawsuit claiming horrific abuse of mentally ill at ADX."

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Alan Prendergast has been writing for Westword for over thirty years. He teaches journalism at Colorado College; his stories about the justice system, historic crimes, high-security prisons and death by misadventure have won numerous awards and appeared in a wide range of magazines and anthologies.
Contact: Alan Prendergast