Former Aspen yoga instructor ordered to report to jail in July

by Chad Abraham, Aspen Daily News Staff Writer

A former Aspen yoga instructor convicted of groping students during his classes must start serving a two-month sentence in the county jail by July 18, a judge ruled Tuesday.

A jury in 2010 found Steven Roger, 51, guilty of two counts of unlawful sexual contact, and he must now register as a sex offender. Roger’s appeal of the conviction was denied last month by a district court judge.

Two women testified at Roger’s trial that as he helped to adjust their yoga poses, he slipped his hand under their pants and touched their genitals.

Roger, who now lives in the Cortez area, and his attorney, Tamas Viski-Hanka of Denver, appeared Tuesday by phone before Judge Erin Fernandez-Ely of Pitkin County Court.

Viski-Hanka asked Fernandez-Ely if she would consider forgoing the jail term for his client, saying that his behavior since his trial has been exemplary and that giving him more community service instead would be more beneficial to Aspen.

Deputy District Attorney Jason Slothouber objected to the request. He called it untimely and said it was important that Roger serve the sentence that he received.

Fernandez-Ely declined Viski-Hanka’s request, agreeing that it was untimely and that she spent a great deal of time formulating a sentence that she thought was fair.

Besides two months in jail, Roger was sentenced to 48 months of probation, 120 hours of community service, $10,000 in fines for the misdemeanors and ordered to complete sexual-offender treatment.

Fernandez-Ely also ordered him to pay nearly $16,500 in restitution to two victims. Roger has about $7,300 still to pay in restitution and fines, Viski-Hanka said.

Fernandez-Ely did make one change, allowing Roger to complete the community service while he serves his sentence. That could involve a work-release situation so he could leave jail to do community service.

The judge also noted that the Pitkin County Jail has a yoga program for inmates.

“That is maybe something you can do and help people out in that regard,” Fernandez-Ely said.

“Yes, ma’am,” Roger said.