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Gilroy
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February 3, 2023

Former Gilroy business owner sentenced for sexual assault

Jeffrey Guenther to serve 60 years in prison

Former Gilroy business owner Jeffrey Guenther, who was convicted of 20 counts of sexual assault, will serve 60 years in state prison after a judge denied the defendant’s motion for a new trial, according to authorities.

Guenther’s attorney, Charles Smith, filed a notice of appeal immediately after the motion for a new trial was rejected, according to the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s office.

Guenther, the former owner of South Valley Insurance, was convicted by a jury in July 2021 of 10 counts of oral copulation by duress and 10 counts of sodomy by duress. The charges are related to Guenther’s repeated assault of a woman who was his employee.

Guenther, 38, and his attorney filed a motion for a new trial shortly after he was convicted. At a Feb. 7 hearing, Judge Elizabeth C. Peterson denied Guenther’s motion for a new trial, according to Deputy DA O’Bryan Kenney.

The judge at that hearing also sentenced Guenther to 60 years in prison.

“We are relieved that Mr. Guenther has been exposed and held to account for his long pattern of sexual abuse of an employee and intimate partner,” Kenney said in an email. “In the past, this type of behavior has often gone unappreciated for the crime that it is. The Gilroy Police Department, the District Attorney’s Office and this Court saw it for what it was.”

Guenther was the owner of South Valley Insurance Services in Gilroy, where he employed the victim when the crimes occurred, according to authorities.

Gilroy Police investigated Guenther after the victim reported the ongoing assault. On Dec. 3, 2020, police arrested Guenther and served a search warrant at South Valley Insurance on the 8300 block of Church Street.

Smith told this newspaper that Guenther has sold South Valley Insurance since he was convicted. He said he will not represent Guenther in the appellate court, but he hopes the conviction is overturned. 

He added that “the judge’s hands were tied” by state laws that strictly determine sentencing guidelines for sexual assault and other crimes. But he said Guenther’s conviction and sentence were “wrong” because his relationship with the woman was consensual, and her accusations were more suitable for a civil sexual harassment case than for a criminal complaint. 

“This woman admittedly had a consensual affair with my client for two years,” Smith said. “He was an abusive jerk, but it was consensual.”

He added that “dozens” of text messages between Guenter and his accuser support the claim that their relationship was consensual. 

“The jury’s verdict was driven by the fact that, with good cause, they hated the guy; but it’s still not rape,” Smith added. “The judge is in a situation where we have decided, as (the state of California), to make penalties for sexual assault on a woman greater than murder… Our legislature has pandered to the feminist women’s movement and decided there is nothing worse than sexually touching a woman.”

Staff Report
A staff member edited this provided article.

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