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November 19, 2013

Tense, graphic testimony on third day of Los Banos double-rape trial

A 22-year-old alleged rape victim testified Tuesday that he remembers only “flashes” of the night he says he was assaulted, but he does remember lying naked on a bathroom floor, bleeding and vomiting as another man took photographs.

A 22-year-old man testified Tuesday that he remembers only “flashes” of the night he says he was raped and assaulted, but does remember lying naked on a bathroom floor, bleeding and vomiting as a man took photographs.

Thomas Zavaleta has pleaded not guilty to drugging, sodomizing and assaulting two unconscious men, ages 22 and 25, at his Los Banos apartment in June and August of 2012, according to the Merced County District Attorney’s Office.

Zavaleta’s attorney, Curtis Rodriguez, has said the sexual acts with both men were consensual.

The 22-year-old man who says he was attacked testified Tuesday, the third day of the Merced Superior Court trial before Judge Marc A. Garcia and a jury of five women and seven men. The 25-year-old man testified last week.

Under questioning from Deputy District Attorney Monica Saini, both men gave similar accounts, describing many of the same physical sensations and memory lapses. The men testified that they have never met or spoken.

During testimony Tuesday, the 22-year-old man said he “strongly believed” Zavaleta drugged him during a small birthday celebration. He described being unable to move his body, fading in and out of consciousness, but recalled “glimpses of memory” from the night of Aug. 8, 2012.

“I was trying to get away – this was like a nightmare – I was lost,” he testified. “I was crying because such an event was happening to me. I wasn’t expecting it to ever happen to me in my life. I didn’t want this at all.”

The judge previously said that the defense plans to argue that the 25-year-old accuser is a closeted homosexual who manufactured the charges against Zavaleta to protect his heterosexual relationships.

“I don’t like guys,” the 22-year-old man testified Tuesday. “It would be easier to keep it all a secret.”

The defense asked the man whether he’d had a homosexual relationship with another man in 2010. He denied having sex with another man and claimed supporters of the defendant were trying to “manipulate” others to say he was a homosexual.

Rodriguez questioned what he said were inconsistencies in the witness’ prior statements and testimony. The man testified that he did not know how he came to be naked that night, but said he did not remove his own clothing. But Rodriguez questioned how he could know he did not strip off his own clothes if he had no memory.

Rodriguez noted that when the 22-year-old man went to leave Zavaleta’s apartment, he “threw” or “shoved” Zavaleta out of the way and left. Rodriguez asked if the witness was afraid of the much-smaller Zavaleta.

“He just raped me. Of course I was scared of him,” the man replied.

The defense attorney has noted that no physical evidence of Gamma-hydroxybutyrate or any other so-called “date rape” drugs has been found during the investigation.

A GHB expert is expected to testify for the prosecution when the trial resumes today.

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