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Man who attacked skier sentenced

He gets one to 15 years; victim recounts trauma

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The young man who tackled, choked and bashed a woman's face in and left her for dead in the snow while she was cross-country skiing was sentenced to prison Monday after his victim recounted her physical and emotional scars.

Jason Steven Joseph Gage was sentenced to one to 15 years in prison by 3rd District Judge Randall Skanchy for attempted murder, a second-degree felony.

The violent surprise attack on a defenseless person a sunny afternoon sent shock waves through the skiing and sporting community.

"I can only be thankful that I was unconscious during the beating my face took," the victim told the judge.

She suffered four facial fractures, her cheekbone was beaten into the center of her face, and bits of broken bone sliced the main nerve cluster in her face, rendering that side numb. "The surgeon used two titanium plates, 11 screws and a bone graft to essentially staple my face back together," she said.

Prior to the attack, she had said hello to Gage and his male companion while skiing near them, then was tackled from behind by Gage and choked until she passed out, she said. She remembers hearing him say, "Die. Please die. Hurry up and die," before losing consciousness.

The attack also has taken an emotional toll, she said, stating that she once delighted in the "solitude of nature" and skiing alone to unwind from the pressures of work and daily living, but Gage has stolen that from her. "I can't go out in the mountains by myself," she said later. "I have to have someone with me, a bodyguard with me."

She also said her family, friends and people in the community were hurt by the attack. "Male and female friends and family members no longer feel safe to bike, hike and ski alone or with their children," she said.

Skanchy seemed to take particular note of a mental health diagnostic evaluation saying that Gage showed little or no remorse for his actions, that he said he could not remember what happened and that he indicated that substance abuse may have played a part.

During the sentencing the judge read loud a part of the evaluation: "He is either a willful and brutal assailant using drug abuse as a scapegoat, or he is even more dangerous because he assaulted someone without reason."

Defense attorney Steven Shapiro acknowledged the victim's suffering, said Gage had expressed remorse to him repeatedly and said Gage told him that he didn't know why he did what he did. Shapiro recommended that Gage be sentenced to a year in jail and then put on probation, with help for mental health and substance abuse problems.

Shapiro said sending Gage to prison might protect the community in the short term, but this ultimately could turn out to be a "graduate school in crime" that could bring out undesirable traits in Gage because of the kind of people and behaviors there.

The judge rejected that argument, telling Gage that trying to change his life "doesn't come from who you associate with — it comes from within."

Gage spoke briefly, saying he wanted to apologize to the woman. "I wish this never would have happened," Gage said. "I can't think of any apology that would be good enough."

E-mail: lindat@desnews.com