A former Culinary Institute of America student is on trial this week in Napa County Superior Court on suspicion of raping a former classmate on her 19th birthday in January 2012 at a house in St. Helena after a night of drinking.
Steven Braslaw, 43, of Riverside, has been charged with rape with use of drugs and attempted rape of an unconscious person in connection with an incident at a residence he and other students were renting. Braslaw has pleaded not guilty to the crimes.
While prosecutor Allison Haley said the woman, a lesbian, was raped, defense attorney Brian Getz said nothing happened.
His accuser, a 20-year-old woman referred to as Jane Doe in court, told the jury that she was a second-year culinary student when Braslaw and other CIA students organized a party on Jan. 10, 2012, at the house the men shared on Hollis Lane. The party was in a unit behind the main house where some of the roommates lived.
The class was a small, tight-knit group, witnesses told the jury of one man and 11 women. Braslaw was well liked, father-like figure, witnesses said during the trial which started Monday.
Openly gay, Jane Doe was engaged to be married to a female police officer in Las Vegas, she told the jury. She and her fiancée are now married by domestic partnership in Nevada, she said.
Jane Doe said she went to the off-campus party with a friend, a former roommate, who had agreed to be the designated driver.
Speaking in a soft voice, Jane Doe testified she drank beer, vodka and other drinks and became very intoxicated. Her former roommate, Melissa Hemphill, told the court Doe became unable to walk on her own. She threw up after a male classmate helped her to a bed on the second floor.
After getting sick, Hemphill and a male classmate helped Jane Doe to a shower on the first floor. As she left Jane Doe in the shower, Hemphill said she was shocked to see Braslaw appear naked, wrapped in a towel.
As Braslaw listened seated next to his two attorneys, Jane Doe told the jury she was in the shower when Braslaw walked in, naked. “I was really confused why he was in there,” she said.
Hemphill testified she was “fooling around” with one of the male roommates in an upstairs bedroom when Jane Doe returned from the shower wet and naked. Jane Doe was led to a twin bed in the same room.
During the night, Braslaw entered the room and flopped next to Jane Doe, Hemphill testified. Jane Doe said she awoke to find Braslaw on top of her, penetrating her.
Hemphill, who was with the male friend about 6 feet away, testified she heard Jane Doe scream, “No, no, no,” as Braslaw left the room. Hemphill said she first thought Breslaw had bumped into her.
The next morning, Jane Doe called her fiancée from the party house, but could not explain what had happened, the fiancée testified.
Under cross examination, Getz asked Jane Doe about her confusion regarding the allegations against his client. But Jane Doe responded, “I know it happened.”
That morning, Hemphill drove Jane Doe, upset and crying, back to her dorm. Doe contacted another classmate who called the school for help after Doe took a shower.
Questioned by Getz, Hemphill, said she first was in disbelief at the accusations against Breslaw whom she trusted.
A nurse on Wednesday testified Jane Doe has suffered injuries consistent with what she had reported to police. But Getz noted that the nurse did not ask about prior sexual practices.
Testimony continues Thursday. Braslaw has been out on $150,000 bail since last January.
Jane Doe has filed a $1 million dollar civil suit against Braslaw seeking damages for her allegations.