Victim testifies in trial of Basalt man charged with attempted sexual assault
Alleged incident happened in July in downtown Aspen bar
A 24-year-old woman who was cornered in the bathroom of a downtown Aspen bar by an intoxicated man last summer didn’t hesitate Wednesday when a prosecutor asked her what she thought about his intentions.
“He would’ve raped me,” she said.
The woman — a Washington D.C. resident and lifelong visitor to Aspen — was the first witness to testify Wednesday in the trial of Robert Marlow, a 41-year-old Basalt man charged with attempted sexual assault, false imprisonment and indecent exposure.
The victim had been out to dinner with a family friend the night of July 6 last year and ended up at Aspen Public House about 1 a.m. on July 7. She testified that she’d had two glasses of wine the entire evening and ordered water at Public House before heading to the bathroom about 15 minutes after arriving at the bar.
She said she first entered the unlocked women’s bathroom and saw a tall man — later identified as Marlow — standing inside with his pants unbuttoned. She said she immediately closed the door, apologized for the intrusion and decided to use the men’s room immediately opposite the women’s room because she thought it would be a similar one-toilet facility with a locking door.
When she entered the men’s room, however, she realized it wasn’t the exact same set-up as the women’s room, hesitated a moment and testified she felt maybe she shouldn’t be in there. At that point, the man who had been in the women’s room came “barging” into the men’s room and backed her up against the wall between a toilet stall and the sink, she said.
The man put his right arm up against the wall, blocking her from leaving, and with his left hand began pulling his pants and boxers down to his knees, she said. She testified that she saw his penis, but could not recall if it was flaccid or erect.
“I was more focused on getting out,” she said.
At that point, she began kicking and screaming at the top of her lungs, she said.
“I said, ‘Please don’t do this. Please let me go,’” she said, crying on the witness stand. “And he said, ‘You’re not going anywhere.’”
The woman testified that the scenario she was faced with had played out many times in her head as one of her greatest fears, and that she’d always told herself that if something like that happened she’d have 60-to-90 seconds to get out of it. In that “moment of clarity,” she said she began counting down from 60, then realized Marlow was much taller than her and that she could duck under his arm and run out of the bathroom, which she did.
A video played in court Wednesday — as well as at a preliminary hearing in August — showed Marlow sitting at a table near the Public House bathrooms and entering the bathroom area seconds before the woman walked downstairs from the bar area to the bathrooms. The 53-second video was not positioned to record what occurred inside the bathrooms, but the audio portion recorded her screaming, and the video caught her running out of the bathroom.
The woman said she’d never seen Marlow before in her life and did not recognize him sitting at the defense table when prosecutor Don Nottingham asked if he was in the courtroom Wednesday.
She said she did not call police that night and didn’t talk to a detective until about noon on July 7. She said she had never experienced such a “trauma” before, and that she initially thought that if she ignored what happened it would go away, though that quickly turned out not to be the case.
On cross-examination, public defender Scott Troxell brought up inconsistencies in the woman’s account of what happened that evening. She admitted she initially told police she spent the first night after the incident at her home when she actually stayed at the family friend’s house. She also told police at one point that she hadn’t seen Marlow’s penis, though she testified Wednesday she did see it and that the memory of seeing it came back to her.
During his opening statement, Troxell said Marlow was “blackout intoxicated” the night of the incident and also had been doing cocaine. However, he said Marlow’s reaction to the cocaine was not typical and that it had caused him to hallucinate, which he chalked up to “strange powders going around Aspen.”
“You will hear that he had a blank stare (on his face),” Troxell said. “There was something wrong with him.”
Regardless of what Marlow ingested, he has “very little recollection of that evening,” Troxell said.
Troxell said the victim clearly believed she was about to be raped but that what actually happened doesn’t equal attempted sexual assault with force under the law.
“I won’t ask you to believe nothing happened,” Troxell told jurors. “Something happened. I’d ask you to look at the evidence. It is not attempted sexual assault with force, even if that’s what (the victim) felt it was.”
Marlow’s trial — which is taking place in the basement of the former Aspen City Hall building while the Pitkin County Courthouse undergoes renovations — is scheduled to run through Monday.
A district court judge Thursday dismissed the remaining criminal counts against the owner of a Basalt-based chiropractor office who had been under grand-jury indictment for allegedly cooperating with one of his massage therapists accused of sexually assaulting clients.