Aspen’s Nikos Hecht takes stand in defense in federal civil lawsuit

DENVER — Aspen developer Nikos Hecht took the stand Thursday afternoon in federal civil court and wasted no time defending himself against claims of rape and assault leveled by a Florida woman.

“Did you rape (Suzanna Dailey)?” was the first question asked by one of his lawyers, Michael Plachy.

“No, I did not,” Hecht said.

“Did you sexually assault Ms. Dailey?” Plachy asked.

“No, I did not,” Hecht answered again. “Ms. Dailey was asking to have sex. Ms. Dailey never said ‘Stop,’ never said, ‘Wait.’”

Dailey’s lawsuit, filed in March 2016 in U.S. District Court, alleges that she met Hecht for the first time two years ago, a few days before the sexual act at a cocktail party at Hecht’s home in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Dailey was on vacation with her sister’s family, and her sister knew Hecht and his then-wife because their children attended Aspen Country Day School together, according to testimony earlier this week.

The two families and another Aspen family made plans to meet at a farm-to-table restaurant. Dailey testified Tuesday and Wednesday that she was enjoying that evening at the outdoor restaurant when Hecht offered to take her on a tour of the gardens. She said she accepted his arm and he walked her about 60 feet up a garden path, then put his hand on the back of her neck, forcibly kissed her, threw her to the ground, pulled her shorts down and raped her.

Hecht’s telling of those events Thursday was contrary to Dailey’s.

He said he began walking up the garden path that evening in search of his 5-year-old son to round him up for dinner.

“Ms. Dailey came up behind me and put her hand on my shoulder,” Hecht said, denying that he invited her to walk with him. “I thought it was odd, but maybe not.

“It seemed flirtatious and maybe overly friendly. It was more intimate that our relationship was.”

Hecht, now 47, said he doesn’t remember extending his arm for Dailey, now 68, to take — as Dailey and two eyewitnesses testified earlier — but also said he doesn’t “disbelieve it” either.

Whatever the case, they began walking together, he said. Later on cross-examination, Hecht said he was still searching for his son at the time, though he didn’t yell for him because, “I don’t yell at my kids. I look for them.”

When they reached a spot he estimated was 30 to 40 feet beyond the end of Japanese lanterns illuminating part of the path, Hecht said Dailey made a move on him.

“Ms. Dailey came around to my side … really close to my face for a second and leaned in and kissed me,” he said. And while Hecht said he didn’t initiate the kiss, “I won’t say I didn’t participate.”

At that point, Dailey’s behavior became more aggressive, he said.

“Ms. Dailey started talking dirty to me,” Hecht said. “She said she wanted me inside of her.”

She also told him she’d never had children and made a vulgar reference to her genitalia, Hecht said.

“I was shocked,” he said. “I’m not a choirboy. I was a willing participant. She initiated it in a way that was over the top.”

His lawyer interrupted the narrative to pose a question.

“Aren’t you afraid your kids are going to see you?” Plachy asked.

“My judgment was awful,” Hecht said. “It’s just galactically stupid. But I was not thinking about my kids.”

Next, Hecht said Dailey undid his pants, kneeled down and performed oral sex on him.

“It was all of her volition,” he said.

After about 10 seconds, Dailey got up, pulled down her shorts, reached to Hecht’s collar and “pulled me into her,” he testified. She lay on her back, Hecht said, while he fell to his knees, tried but failed to penetrate her twice, then began having second thoughts about what he was doing.

“I then felt it was wrong,” he said. “It woke me up.”

Hecht said he rose to his feet, told Dailey, “This is crazy,” pulled up his pants and urged her to hurry up. He then walked back to the dinner table ahead of Dailey so no one would be suspicious, took a seat next to his wife and tried to join the conversation.

“I didn’t want to be rude,” Hecht said. “But I didn’t want to walk back together.”

Dailey joined him back at the table “a matter of seconds later,” he said, and perched right next to him. He said he tried to ignore her and focus on his wife, but Dailey tapped him on the shoulder. Hecht didn’t turn around to acknowledge her, however, because he didn’t want to have any inappropriate conversation, he said.

The snub didn’t appear to have an effect on Dailey, though, because she began snapping photos of other guests, he said, including one of himself grinning at the table.

“She was telling people to smile, trying to tell people to pose,” Hecht said. “She tapped me and took my picture, which is why I look like a deer in the headlights.”

Dailey testified that she took the pictures before the sexual incident on the garden path.

Earlier Thursday, Dailey’s longtime psychotherapist testified about the differences between Dailey before the Cabo San Lucas vacation and after.

Dailey has a long history of depression and was stressed about taking care of her elderly mother in the years prior to the trip, said Dr. Betty McGuigan of Sebastian, Florida. But, for the most part, she was coping, said McGuigan, who began treating Dailey in 2003.

“She was managing to function well,” she said. “She was able to care for her mother. She came (to therapy appointments) clean and neat. She went to work on a regular basis.”

Dailey went to see McGuigan within days of returning to Florida, and the therapist noticed an immediate change, she said. Dailey spoke slowly, seemed disoriented, was agitated and seemed to be disconnected and in shock, McGuigan testified.

“She is looking distant, dazed and it appeared as if she wasn’t there,” she said. “And I had seen that look before on Vietnam War veterans. They call it the thousand-mile stare.”

Dailey also feared for her safety and thought Hecht was planning to come kill her, McGuigan said.

Now she distrusts people, which wasn’t a problem before, and continues to exhibit many of the same symptoms related to sexual assault at the same intensity three years later, McGuigan said.

“She’s a different person,” she said.

Hecht’s defense continues today.