Day two: Jurors hear both testimonies
LISBON — Jurors are expected to continue deliberating this morning in the trial of Robert Graffius, charged with rape for allegedly forcing himself on a woman who was in his Columbiana apartment on June 6, 2017.
On Tuesday, the second day of testimony in the courtroom of county Common Pleas Court Judge Scott Washam, jurors got to hear from both the victim and from Graffius about what happened in his apartment that day. Both cried during their time on the stand.
She testified first, telling the jury after drinking three beers in about four hours time, she became tired and went to lie down in the bedroom just off the living area of the home. She said she was just trying to drift off when he came in and sat down. When she asked him what he was doing, he claimed he was just going to sit and listen to some music. However, the woman testified he then began to put his hands on her on the outside of her clothes.
“I asked ‘what are you doing,'” she said, adding ‘don’t do that. I told you not to touch me.'”
When he persisted she got up and left the room going into the main living area and sitting down in the recliner. She said that was when she noticed a porn movie playing on the TV in the living room, which he must have been watching while she was lying in the bedroom. She testified he asked if she wanted to watch the porno with him and she said she did not.
She said at that point he took his pants off, pulled her sweatpants off, threw her phone across the room and climbed on top of her. She hit the wall and screamed, according to her testimony, and begged to go to the bathroom. He eventually let her go to the bathroom, where she said she sat contemplating what to do.
She was hoping Graffius would pass out and she could run from the apartment, even if it meant leaving without her pants, just to get away from him. But he was right next to the bathroom door when she opened it and threw her onto the bed. She said she fought him, but he was 100 pounds heavier than her, held her down and put his hands over her mouth to quiet her screams. Eventually she gave in, she said.
After the sexual assault ended she said she was in shock. She said Graffius went back to being himself. They had been friends for four to six weeks when it happened. She put on her clothes and asked him for her phone. He requested a hug and then was critical of how she was not hugging him back, so she did. He asked if she was angry with him, which she told him no so she could leave. He then told her to “keep in touch.”
She testified she left and walked around the corner before calling her boyfriend in Florida. He urged her to call 911, which she did.
One of Graffius’ defense attorneys, James Wise, questioned some inconsistencies in the woman’s story on the stand. He asked her why if when she got tired she did not just put down the recliner to take her power nap.
“I trusted him,” the woman said. “He was my friend. I never felt threatened.”
Additionally, after she said Graffius started groping her in the bedroom, Wise questioned why she went out of the bedroom and just sat in the recliner instead of exiting the front door at that moment. She responded he was out of the bedroom in a matter of seconds.
Wise asked her why she did not try to see if the bathroom window would open when she was there. During closing arguments, Wise suggested if the woman was desperate to get out of the home, maybe she could have looked for chemicals under the sink she could have thrown in his eyes when she left the bathroom.
Assistant County Prosecutor Megan Bickerton, during her closing remarks, said such a suggestion was “ridiculous.”
During his closing arguments, Wise questioned why after the alleged assault the woman took the time to put her clothes on, get her phone and purse from the living room instead of just running from the apartment.
Wise also challenged the woman’s timeline, which he noted was not accurate as to what she told police. For instance, she testified she was raped at 4:30 p.m. which lasted 15 to 20 minutes, she talked to her boyfriend when she left the apartment and then said she called 911. Wise pointed out phone records showed she did not talk to her boyfriend until 6:07 p.m. and then called 911 at 7:50 p.m.
Bickerton pointed out while being raped the woman was not looking at a clock. Additionally, she pointed out rape kits can be done up to 96 hours after the attack and the MeToo movement has women reporting sexual assaults 20 years later. Bickerton said the woman reported this assault the same day.
Before the woman left the stand, Bickerton asked her about her life since the rape.
“I’m not fearful, because I know he’s in jail,” she said, adding it was different throughout the summer before the indictment was issued and Graffius was incarcerated. “I checked my doors 20 times a day to make sure they were locked. I would not sit outside like I liked to do, because I was afraid he would turn the corner.”
Graffius also took the stand in his own defense, giving a different story from the one the woman gave. He said his brother and the woman dropped him off at home between picking her up at the library and buying beer at Marathon. He claimed the sex was consensual. He said he was the one who had gone into the bedroom to lie down and she had joined him. Additionally,, he claimed both had made advances toward each other. He vehemently denied grabbing the woman, throwing her down on the bed or any sexual assault.
“I’m 41 years old, sir,” Graffius told Wise during his testimony. “I’ve never done that to anybody and I never would.”
Graffius claimed the woman knew about the porno in the DVD player because she must have hit the button on the remote that turns the TV to the station where the DVD player is running in the background. He also claimed after the woman left to call her boyfriend she returned and asked him to go get her more beer. He told her to walk down to Marathon to get her own beer.
Bickerton questioned what Graffius told police when they interviewed him soon after the alleged rape. During that interview, Columbiana police officer Richard Whitfield had testified on Monday that Graffius denied having sex at all with the woman.
“I knew where it was leading,” Graffius tried to explain. “I had kicked her out and we had argued. (The woman) cried rape. I’m scared of the police and I did not want to say too much without legal representation.”
Additionally, he claimed he has been harassed and beaten by the police in the past. He thought he had signed paperwork that was going to make this all go away. Bickerton explained what he had signed was that he had received a protection order the woman had obtained to protect her from Graffius.
Bickerton continued to criticize Graffius for changing his story from there being no sex to now consensual sex.
“You were lying then, but today you are telling the truth,” Bickerton questioned.
“Yes, I’m under oath,” Graffius responded.
“You choose when and where to tell the truth,” Bickerton added.
Between the testimony of the victim and Graffius, jurors also heard from the sexual assault nurse examiner, Clarrissa Miller, who testified she found abrasions, redness and swelling when she examined the woman’s vaginal areas. Additionally, she was unable to complete a part of the exam because the woman was too uncomfortable with one part of the exam from a pain standpoint. Miller said the types of injuries were consistent with a sexual assault.
Wise sought to find another explanation for the injuries, such as rough consensual sex, the size of the male or the time of the woman’s life, such as during or after menopause. Miller said the swelling could come from rough consensual sex, but not the abrasions.
Jurors deliberated for about an hour and 20 minutes late Tuesday afternoon before calling it a day.