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A Gilroy insurance agent was found guilty of 20 counts of sexual assault in Santa Clara County Superior Court last week.

Following a jury trial, Jeffrey Guenther, 38, was convicted of 10 counts of oral copulation by duress and 10 counts of sodomy by duress, according to Deputy District Attorney O’Bryan Kenney.

The charges are related to Guenther’s victimization of a woman who was his employee, and with whom he was in a dating relationship in late 2020, Kenney said. Guenther is the owner of South Valley Insurance Services in Gilroy, where he employed the victim when the crimes occurred.

Guenther repeatedly forced the woman to engage in sex acts with him by threatening to dock her pay or fire her if she didn’t follow a number of rules, including daily sex acts, Kenney said. These threats and acts occurred “on a daily basis for over two months.”

When the woman eventually told Guenther she was no longer going to comply with his illegal and abusive demands, he fired her from the business as promised, Kenney said.

Gilroy Police arrested Guenther Dec. 3, and served a search warrant at South Valley Insurance on the 8300 block of Church Street. He was initially charged with 36 counts of various sexual assault offenses.

Guenther has been out of custody on $400,000 bail, with home detention restrictions since his initial court appearances, Kenney said. The trial lasted four weeks at the San Jose Hall of Justice. 

Kenney said the victim, who has not been identified, testified during this summer’s trial. He added that prosecutors’ case relied on expert testimony “to educate the jury on intimate partner violence and sexual assault” and refute the claim that the sex acts were consensual rather than coerced.

“It took her some time to find the courage to report it to the police,” Kenney said. “There was enough evidence to establish there were reasons it took her some time to report. In this case, he was threatening to fire her and dock her pay.”

A friend and work associate of Guenther’s at South Valley Insurance said Guenther and his wife still own the business. The friend, Brian Harrigan, said Guenther is planning to appeal the jury’s verdict. 

“I can say with confidence this is a wrongful conviction and we look forward to the verdict being overturned in the appeals process,” Harrigan said. 

Harrigan added that he and Guenther’s brother, along with a full staff, have continued to operate South Valley Insurance while Guenther has faced criminal charges. 

Guenther will return to court in San Jose on Aug. 16 for a pre-sentencing assessment from the probation department, Kenney said. The DA’s office will request a date for a formal sentencing hearing at that time.

Guenther faces a potentially lengthy sentence in state prison and lifetime registration as a sex offender, Kenney said.

“This is a case of this man exploiting his victim, someone he was in relationship with, using a number of levers of control— as her employer, dating partner, and during Covid-19 when it’s reasonable to have increased fear” of being unemployed, Kenney said. “He used all those tools to control her.”

Guenther’s attorney, Chuck Smith, did not return a phone call requesting comment.

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Michael Moore is an award-winning journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor for the Morgan Hill Times, Hollister Free Lance and Gilroy Dispatch since 2008. During that time, he has covered crime, breaking news, local government, education, entertainment and more.

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