Alleged victim testifies in Aspen rape trial
ASPEN – An Aspen woman told jurors Thursday she feared for her life before fleeing from her aggressor after she was raped – three times – outside the Centennial Apartments complex on the morning of Jan. 17, 2009.
Jurors also listened to the recording of a 911 call that was made by the alleged victim’s neighbor. The woman had sought refuge at the neighbor’s home after breaking free from suspect Emanuel Gonzalez-Loujun. After a 911 operator spoke to the neighbor, who reported the sexual assault, the woman told police dispatchers that “he had a gun … he said he would kill himself. He pulled me down in the snow and made me [perform oral sex] … he would knock me down very forcefully. He said he had a gun.”
Thursday was the first day of testimony in the trial of Gonzalez-Loujun, 22, of Carbondale. He faces five felony charges – including sexual assault, kidnapping, and assault of a police officer – stemming from his alleged transgressions on the morning in question. The most egregious offense is the sexual assault count, which carries a sentence of 16 years to life in prison. The kidnapping allegation carries a sentence of 16 to 48 years behind bars.
The police-officer assault charge stems from the suspect allegedly striking officer Leon Murray, the first Aspen officer to encounter Gonzalez-Loujun that morning. Murray was responding to the 911 call that a sexual assault had occurred at the time. After the scuffle, police found 14 bindles of cocaine on the suspect, resulting in felony drug possession and distribution charges. Later that morning, the alleged victim positively identified Gonzalez-Loujun as the rapist while he was in custody, spurring the sexual assault and kidnapping charges.
The trial, which is being held in Pitkin County District Court with Judge James Boyd presiding, is expected to finish by the end of next week. The 12-member jury will be tasked with deciding whether the suspect is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of the charges. Originally there were two alternate jurors, but one was dismissed for unspecified reasons Thursday.
Meanwhile Thursday, the alleged victim – with the jury looking on – pointed out Gonzalez-Loujun, who jotted down notes while listening to her testimony, as the man who raped her. She said first encountered the suspect on a public bus that she boarded in front of Bentley’s at 1:40 that morning.
“He grabbed my hand and told me he liked my dress … I snapped my hand away.”
After the bus dropped the woman and her roommate off at the Centennial Apartments complex, the two went to their unit. Soon after, the male roommate saw Gonzalez-Loujun looking through the window of their apartment, the accuser testified. The roommate went outside, armed with a frying pan, to find the man. Minutes later, the alleged victim went outside to check on her roommate, but said she was apprehended by Gonzalez-Loujun as she walked down the steps outside of her apartment unit, according to testimony.
“He grabbed and pulled me,” she testified, adding that “I was scared and terrified.”
Sometimes crying and other times composed during her testimony, the alleged victim said she was dragged and then pushed onto a snowbank by the man, who at one time held his hand over her mouth. When the suspect fell on top of her, “I knew I was about to get raped,” she said, acknowledging that she offered him oral sex because “I didn’t want to have intercourse.”
She added: “I was scared. I didn’t want to get raped.”
At one time the woman escaped, but was later caught by the alleged perpetrator, she said.
“He grabbed me, put his elbow around me and said ‘Don’t do that again,'” she testified. The suspect also told the woman his name was Andrew, he came from Florida and was in Aspen for the Winter X Games. He also threatened to kill himself with a gun if she did not have sex with him – although he did not have a firearm at the time.
Eventually the woman was raped vaginally and sodomized, according to her testimony.
Prosecutor Arnold Mordkin will continue his direct examination of the alleged victim this morning, before the suspect’s attorneys – either Tina Fang or Stephen McCrohan – conduct cross examination.
During opening arguments Thursday, Fang wasted little time arguing Gonzalez-Loujun’s innocence to the sexual assault and kidnapping charges, contending that the sex was consensual and the Aspen Police Department botched the case the moment the investigation began.
To make her point, Fang told jurors that the chief witnesses against the suspect – including the alleged victim – have major credibility issues. Put simply, Fang said, “you can’t judge a book by its cover.”
With that, Fang tackled the book metaphor head on: “This case is about three such books whose covers don’t add up to what’s inside.”
Fang took literal means to exhibit her point, showing the jury the covers of three books and how they pertain to the case against Gonzalez-Loujun.
The first book cover displayed a photo of the alleged victim, whom Fang called “beautiful, young, clean looking and put together.”
But, Fang noted, looks can be deceiving, and the alleged victim was not sexually assaulted three times as the prosecution has alleged. Instead, the alleged victim “told a story, a story that is fiction,” Fang contended, telling the jurors that the woman “encouraged” Gonzalez-Loujun to have sex with her.
“Instead of saying ‘no, get away, I’m not interested,’ she says, in her words, ‘I’ll [perform oral sex],'” Fang told jurors.
Fang also contended that while Gonzalez-Loujun’s blood-alcohol level was three times the legal limit, the victim was intoxicated as well.
“[The alleged victim] was so intoxicated she doesn’t remember where she was, she doesn’t remember what bus she got on,” Fang said, adding that “there’s other evidence she may have been using coke that night.”
The alleged victim told Gonzalez-Loujun that she had coke and marijuana, and instead of having sex outside, they could go to her apartment, Fang argued. That overture, Fang said, implied consent by the accuser.
DNA testing also revealed five samples of other men’s DNA on the tights the accuser wore the morning she was allegedly raped, Fang said.
Honoring her metaphor, Fang showed jurors a book with the Aspen Police Department’s logo on its cover. Again, she fired off jabs at the APD’s handling of the case.
“You are going to hear about the total failures of this department,” she said, including that the APD never established a crime scene and did not question any Centennial tenants, other than those the alleged victim told she was raped.
“They never put up a crime scene. They didn’t do a thorough search of that area at all. They didn’t even take pictures of this area until this past Sunday [March 28],” Fang said.
Fang also argued that when the alleged victim visited Valley View Hospital for a sexual assault nurse examination the same morning as the alleged rape, there was evidence of cocaine on her face.
“A close-up picture of her face with a streak of white substance coming from her face – the Aspen Police Department never collected that streak.”
The APD also failed in its handling of genetic evidence, Fang argued.
Aside from the APD and the alleged victim, Fang attacked the stature of Theresa Hanson, a Rifle woman who at one time had been held in the Pitkin County jail on drug forgery charges. Mordkin, in opening arguments, said Hanson received a confession from Gonzalez-Loujun. But Fang, on several occasions, deemed Hanson a “jailhouse snitch.”
Again, making her point that jurors could not judge a book by its cover, Fang displayed a book with June Cleaver, the ’50s sitcom mom, on its cover.
“This book, if made into a motion picture, would be the drama of the century,” Fang told jurors. “[Hanson] would win an Academy Award.”
Hanson, Fang claimed, cooked up the Gonzalez-Loujun confession to get in the good graces of the district attorney’s office, which Fang claimed cut her a deal by releasing her from jail.
“What a gift is that – to let Theresa Hanson out of jail,” Fang said.
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