Defendant denies drugging men in Los Banos double-rape case, but expert witness disagrees

11/20/2013 8:21 PM

11/20/2013 10:36 PM

Thomas Zavaleta testified Wednesday that he did not drug the two men he is charged with raping in 2012.

Zavaleta, 25, has pleaded not guilty to drugging and sodomizing two unconscious men in June and August of last year. If convicted on all charges, Zavaleta faces more than 14 years in state prison.

A previous Merced County jury failed to reach a verdict in the first trial in July.

Proceedings ended Wednesday with Zavaleta still on the stand, and his testimony is scheduled to resume today in Merced County Superior Court before Judge Marc A. Garcia.

Defense attorney Curtis Rodriguez on Wednesday only asked Zavaleta questions regarding one of the two men. Zavaleta described events from the night of Aug. 8, 2012, involving a then-21-year-old man.

Zavaleta described the man vomiting in the bathroom and said they began kissing immediately afterwords. He said they “became naked” as they were kissing.

“He wasn’t really into it,” Zavaleta testified under questioning from his attorney.

He said he did “not recall” the man being unconscious or objecting to any of the acts, including being photographed while lying naked on Zavaleta’s bathroom floor. At one point during the night, Zavaleta testified, the man said to keep the sexual acts a secret.

While describing another sexual act, the defendant said the man “wasn’t open to that type of sexual activity, yet.”

He said that later in the evening during another act, the man said “he didn’t want to do it anymore.” The defense attorney did not ask Zavaleta if he stopped having sex with the man at that point.

The defendant struggled to remember many details from that night, but denied ever purchasing, using or giving any person the so-called date-rape drug, gamma hydroxybutyrate, or GHB.

He is accused of drugging and raping a second man on June 23, 2012. Authorities said Zavaleta recorded a 17-minute video of that incident. The defendant acknowledged to police that the man, who was 24 at the time, was unconscious for at least part of the time, according to separate video evidence presented last week.

Trinka Porrata testified as an expert on GHB and said she believes Zavaleta drugged both men with GHB.

“Everything about this is consistent with being drugged,” she said on the witness stand. Porrata said GHB is a widely used and abused drug, and commonly involved in sexual assault cases. She said a person who is under the influence of the drug may have physical responses to the sexual acts, but said those reactions do not amount to consent.

“There is a point at which the body may participate, but it’s not consent,” she said.

Another witness, Salvador Agundez Jr., testified for the defense on Wednesday in an apparent effort to discredit the 21-year-old victim. Agundez said he and the man were involved in a consensual sex act in 2010.

Under questioning from Deputy District Attorney Monica Saini, Agundez denied ever telling people that he was testifying because Zavaleta’s family had offered him money. Saini said that two officers have said Agundez told them he had been offered money from the defendant’s family in exchange for his testimony. He said those officers were not telling the truth.

The defendant’s family has declined to comment.

Zavaleta is scheduled to take the stand again today.

The judge said he expects the trial to conclude today and that the jury will likely begin deliberations on Friday.

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