Jury deliberates in former cop’s rape case

The fate of former police officer Paul J. Santos rests with a jury of his peers, who began deliberations yesterday after hearing closing arguments from both sides. Defense attorney Randall Cunliffe chose not to call any witnesses and rested his case. Santos is charged with first-degree criminal sexual conduct as a first-degree felony, second-degree criminal sexual conduct as a first-degree felony, bribery as a third-degree felony, official misconduct, and abetting prostitution as a misdemeanor. The judge granted the defense’s motion to dismiss several criminal charges last week.

It has been over two years since a former exotic dancer from the states accused Santos of soliciting and violently raping her at the Ypao Hotel. Santos was in uniform and on duty when the two met on Sept. 1, 2014.

During closing arguments Assistant Attorney General Matthew Heibel asked jurors to review all of the evidence and testimony in the case. “… The case isn’t complicated. A cop shows up in full uniform, he has sex, but he doesn’t pay for it from the prostitute. The only way that it occurs is that he uses his position to get it,” Heibel stated.

“He coerces her into it by saying, ‘Hey, you can get arrested. You might not see your family again. You might not make it home and then he slips the bribe. Now that you told me that, now that you lay that in front of me, how can you help me? That’s how he gets fellatio, sex and anal penetration. If you believe those things, you have him guilty on all charges beyond a reasonable doubt.”

The prosecutor told jurors that Santos was the aggressor, a powerful policeman armed with a gun, threatening to arrest her and that the victim was “defenseless.” Heibel also reminded jurors of the evidence presented in the case including the surveillance footage that showed Santos driving up to the hotel in his police patrol car while in uniform, testimony of Federal Bureau of Investigation agents and the victim’s tearful testimony of the alleged violent rape.

The prosecutor said that although no money was ever exchanged between Santos and the victim, coercion and the sexual act itself constituted an act of bribery and thus proved Santos guilty of abetting prostitution and official misconduct.

Defense’s closing arguments

The defendant’s attorney painted a different picture, calling into question the credibility of the victim. Cunliffe reminded jurors of the victim’s history in the sexual entertainment industry and run-ins with the law, and her history of lying to investigators and withholding details in the investigation of this case.

“Paul Santos was stupid, there’s no doubt,” Cunliffe said. “He had his little head do the thinking.”

The defense attorney asked jurors to compare the criminal charges against his client to the statute.

“Ladies and gentleman, the language of the statute is very important; you have to look at the indictment, compare the language with the description and the statements of law,” Cunliffe stated. “You can’t have rape and abetting prostitution at the same time. No money changed hands.”

He said the evidence and the statutes make it clear that the jury must return a not-guilty verdict.

Text messages

The defense attorney also brought up text messages between the victim and the defendant to show that the two communicated after the alleged rape. One such message in response to the victim being paranoid, Santos wrote, “You have nothing to worry about from me.”

Cunliffe said his client sent another text message when he learned that the victim was a porn star that said, “Your movies are awesome.” The defense attorney asked jurors, “Is that how you communicate with someone you just raped? He was like a little puppy in his responses to her.”

Jurors are expected to resume deliberations today.

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