Keystone bar bouncer faces charge of attempted sexual assault
March 26, 2018
Attorneys delivered opening statements in an attempted sexual assault trial on Monday, setting off the fourth sexual misconduct trial in Summit County in the past year.
Jacob Keller Bens, 27, is accused of groping a woman without permission in her bed last August. He is charged with attempted sexual assault, a class-five felony, as well as misdemeanor unlawful sexual contact and a drug charge. He faces several years in prison if convicted.
Bens' attorneys argue that the touching was consensual and that their client's accuser gave no indication of being physically helpless during the encounter, which is said to have occurred after she invited Bens to her apartment.
During her opening statements, public defender Thea Reiff also argued that law enforcement barely investigated the case and didn't properly scrutinize the woman's accusations by talking to witnesses.
"They simply didn't do any follow-up," she told jurors. "Fortunately, the defense was able to locate witnesses and interview them… They have an obligation to vet this accusation, but the first time (the woman) will ever be questioned in any meaningful way will be here at this trial."
During his opening remarks, prosecutor Johnny Lombardi laid out the timeline for the people's case, which stems from a night of drinking at the Snake River Saloon in Keystone, where Bens was a bouncer.
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The woman knew Bens as an acquaintance and approached him while he was working the door on the night of August 5, Lombardi said. Bens later got someone to cover for him and danced and talked with the woman. The two were seen occasionally kissing, and they had a drink together.
Later, the woman invited Bens to her apartment to watch TV but explicitly told him she did not want to have sex, Lombardi said. While they were in her bed together, the woman became sick and went to the bathroom for about 20 minutes. Her memory lapsed after going back to bed, but she remembers waking up to find Bens' hands on her breast and vaginal area, Lombardi said.
"She was extremely upset," he told jurors. "She immediately got out of bed, went to her roommate's room and told him what happened."
The woman was distraught and went to her car to make phone calls until the morning, Lombardi said. She eventually saw Bens leave, and he texted her that morning asking why she had left.
Lombardi said the texts would prove incriminating, but Reiff argued that they instead showed Bens' concern about why the woman had abruptly left the apartment and not returned.
The woman went to the hospital for a forensic nurse exam and on August 10 reported the incident to a Summit County sheriff's deputy, who testified Monday afternoon that the woman appeared "distraught and upset."
Lombardi previewed the prosecution's witnesses, which included a forensic nurse and several sheriff's office investigators. The prosecution called the responding deputy Monday afternoon before the day's proceedings concluded.
Reiff, meanwhile, told jurors to expect testimony from witnesses from the bar, whom she said would indicate that nothing about Bens' interactions with the woman raised concerns.
The trial is scheduled to continue through Thursday at the Summit County Justice Center in Breckenridge.
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