Defense Lawyers Question Accuser
North Haverhill — Defense attorneys continued Wednesday to attempt to undercut the account of the woman who alleges she was raped by a former Dartmouth College student, pointing out discrepancies between what she told a Hanover police detective, her parents and friends.
During cross-examination, lawyers for Parker C. Gilbert pointed out that the woman told the nurse who was examining her that she had a “little bit to drink” — three beers at a fraternity party — the night of the alleged assault. She didn’t mention the three shots of vodka she told the court she had consumed in her dorm before going out.
“You deliberately underestimated the amount of alcohol you had,” said defense attorney Cathy Green.
“I wouldn’t say deliberately,” the woman replied. “I was more focused on getting the details of the assault. But I was forthcoming when I spoke to (Hanover Police Capt.) Frank Moran, so I wouldn’t say I deliberately hid it.”
Gilbert is charged with seven counts of aggravated felonious sexual assault and a misdemeanor criminal trespassing charge.
The prosecution alleges that the woman exchanged a few words with Gilbert, whom she did not know well, at a fraternity party before retuning to her Berry Hall dorm room on the Dartmouth campus around 1:30 a.m. on May 2, 2013. The woman said she fell asleep, with a female friend sleeping in the same bed, and awoke in the early morning hours of to find Gilbert assaulting her.
Prosecutors have acknowledged that the woman — who they say was disoriented and confused — initially said “yes” when Gilbert asked if she liked what he was doing to her, but later yelled out for him to stop when she realized what was happening.
The defense claims the encounter was consensual, what attorney Robert Cary characterized in his opening argument as “clumsy, awkward, drunk college sex.”
The friend who was sleeping in the same bed with the woman has said that she did not wake up during the incident, and the woman’s suite mate, who was in an adjoining room, told investigators she only heard sounds consistent with consensual sex, according to the defense.
Wednesday was the second day of testimony for the 19-year-old accuser from Connecticut. Her mother, two friends and the mother of one the her friends also testified. (As a general practice, the Valley News does not identify victims of sexual assault.)
During the cross examination by the defense, Green pointed out discrepancies in the woman’s story, including details about the alleged assault that she included in her retelling to a friend, but not to investigators or in court on Tuesday.
Green also pointed out that the woman had told her mother and Moran that she was experiencing pain following the assault. But when she met with emergency room doctors and nurses, she did not report any pain.
“I don’t recall telling the doctors that,” the woman said. “But at that point I did not know whether it’s something that a doctor can help you with. I didn’t want them to fuss any more around my genital area.”
The woman previously testified she met with another close friend the morning after the incident to discuss what happened. During questioning on Wednesday, Green asserted that it was the friend who asked for details and convinced the woman to report an assault.
“I wouldn’t use the word pry,” the woman said. “I think she asked respectfully. She wasn’t aggressive.”
Green and the woman continued the exchange, with Green saying that the woman confided in the friend that it was probably her fault.
“That’s what I was feeling at the time,” the woman said.
“You told (your friend) that, ‘I don’t know if this counts as a problem,’ ” Green said.
“Yes, I think so,” the woman said.
“(Your friend) started questioning what you were saying and picking it apart,” Green said, adding that the woman’s friend urged her to go to Dick’s House, the college’s health center.
“I believe that she strongly encouraged me to go to Dick’s House,” the woman said.
Green also said during questioning that the woman had told her mother that she was worried that Gilbert would boast about what happened and told her father that she had to pursue the case to maintain her dignity.
“You were concerned that what happened with Parker would affect the respect that your friends had for you,” Green said.
“I was concerned it’s been known that people speak about any kind of sexual act and exaggerate things and lie about it,” the woman rebutted. “I was worried he would lie about what happened with his friends.”
Green also asked if the woman had acquired a private lawyer. The woman said she consulted with one once or twice, but she didn’t know if her family was paying him. She added that she spoke to a close family friend, who happened to be a lawyer, on the phone before she met with police the first time.
The accuser was more composed on her second day of testimony. After weeping during much of her four hours on the stand Tuesday, she did not cry Wednesday until her final minutes on the stand, when Green asked her why she didn’t report the incident to her residence hall adviser, who was asleep in an nearby room on the night in question.
“I woke up out of a deep sleep with somebody telling me horrible things and implying that I deserved them or wanted them. I don’t know, I just shut down,” the woman said.
Moments later, after being dismissed by the judge, the woman left the courtroom in tears.
In a brief interview after trial adjourned for the day, the woman said she technically is still enrolled at Dartmouth, but she has taken a leave from classes during the last few terms.
For the second day, about two dozen of Gilbert’s supporters attended the trial, with his mother and father sitting in the front row of the gallery. His mother wrapped her arms around him and kissed him on the head when the court recessed for lunch and Gilbert emerged from a conference room. Gilbert, a rugby player who is no longer enrolled at Dartmouth, has been living in Newbury, N.H., prior to the trial.
In other testimony Wednesday, Kyle Moran, the mother of Dale Bellitto, the friend who slept in the same bed with the accuser on the night in question, shared anecdotes that suggested her daughter is indeed a heavy sleeper.
When Bellitto took the stand, she testified that she takes medication that makes her particularly drowsy when she drinks alcohol. She said it’s common for her to “black out” once every two months.
Another of the accuser’s friends, Paul Danyow, who also lived on the same floor as the woman last spring, testified that he had gone to the fraternity party at Beta Alpha Omega on the night of the alleged assault. He said earlier in the night, he had been drinking in the accuser’s room, where he had three shots of whiskey.
Danyow said that he, Bellitto and the woman came back from the fraternity house together, and that he fell asleep soon after.
About 3:30 a.m., he heard a heavy pounding on his door. When he opened it, he saw Gilbert standing in the doorway. Danyow said Gilbert was visibly agitated and yelled, “Who the (expletive) are you?” and claimed it was his room.
Gilbert, however, calmed down and said he was mistaken and on the wrong floor, Danyow said.
“At that point I thought, ‘Oh, OK, innocent mistake. You’re clearly intoxicated.’ So then I went to bed,” Danyow said.
When asked if Gilbert asked about the accuser, Danyow said no.
Danyow added that he didn’t realize the man pounding on his door was Gilbert right away. In the days that followed, a friend showed him a photo of Gilbert on Facebook, Danyow said, and he recognized him as the man who had been at his door.
The trial is scheduled to resume at 10 a.m. today at Grafton Superior Court in North Haverhill.
Sarah Brubeck can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3223.