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Sexual assault victim files lawsuit against organizers of Napa's BottleRock music festival
Litigation

Sexual assault victim files lawsuit against organizers of Napa's BottleRock music festival

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May 25, 2019 was set to be a day of music, food, wine and fun for those headed to that year’s BottleRock music festival.

One woman, known as Jane Doe, was among them.

She was looking forward to attending the concerts from such artists as Neil Young, Pharrell Williams, Santana, and Gary Clark Jr.

But only hours after her arrival, Doe’s day took a disturbing and violent turn when she was sexually assaulted while using a portable toilet. The next day, a man was arrested. Her assailant, Peterson William Fontes, then 42, of Richmond, was later convicted and sentenced to more than 16 years in prison.

But Doe’s story does not end there.

On Feb. 4, she filed a civil complaint against the festival’s organizer and security companies.

Doe alleges that Latitude 38 Entertainment, LLC of Napa, NPB Companies, Inc. and Contemporary Services Corporation were negligent and caused her devastating emotional distress as a result of the assault.

“The horrific sexual assault of our client should never have been allowed to happen.” said Jane Doe’s attorney Paul T. Llewellyn.

“The fact that the perpetrator was able to cut holes in the back of eight portable restrooms, while going undetected, suggests gross security failings by the defendants. In my opinion, they were asleep at the wheel,” said Llewellyn.

A representative for Latitude 38 declined to comment for this story.

Representatives for NPB Companies, Inc. and Contemporary Services Corporation could not be immediately reached.

That night of the attack

Around 10 p.m. on that Saturday night, Doe left the Pharrell Williams show shortly before it ended and went to use the restroom near Gate 3.

The toilets were not particularly congested as most people were still attending the nearby concert, said the lawsuit.

On her way to the restroom, it was dark, so Doe used the flashlight function on her cell phone.

Doe then put her cellphone in her mouth so she could use her hands inside the stall. She squatted over the toilet and started to urinate when Fontes sexually assaulted her with his hand.

Stunned, Doe screamed and jumped away.

Horrified, she ran out of the stall and around the restroom exit but did not see the perpetrator.

Pleading for help, Doe frantically explained to security guards what had happened. She asked the guards whether they had seen anyone and how she could have been assaulted.

According to the complaint, the security guards were dismissive toward Doe and told her that there was “no way” for anyone to have entered the restroom area.

The security guards “further insulted Doe by insinuating that they could not possibly know whether anyone trespassed in a gathering of tens of thousands of people.”

Doe proceeded to show the security guards the stall she used. After walking around the portable toilet, it became clear that there was a large enough space between the back of the toilets and the surrounding fence for someone to squeeze through. The open space was left unguarded and did not include any security signage.

“While insisting that her story was true, Doe lifted the tarp behind the fence surrounding the facilities, exposing holes cut into the stalls providing direct access to patrons using the toilet. Doe found holes in the back of other stalls as well.

An evidence photo shows a picture of a double-edged wallboard saw capable of cutting through hard plastic. The holes were rectangular, about six to eight inches per side, and about two feet up from the ground, right above the base of the toilet seat.

The holes were big enough for Fontes to inserted his whole arm through the back wall of the portable toilet.

A woman facing towards the door of the toilet, with her back to the back wall, and about to sit down on the toilet seat, would not realize that someone’s arm and hand could be positioned directly underneath her, between her body and the toilet seat.

Because Doe felt the security guards failed to take her complaints seriously, she called the police. While waiting for the officers to arrive, Doe asked to speak with BottleRock management and head of security, “but her request was ignored.”

After the police arrived, a nurse conducted an exam of Doe during which she identified multiple abrasions where Doe had been assaulted by Fontes’ hand.

For days following the incident, Doe felt a burning sensation in that area. She also began experiencing severe pain in her lower back, hip, and leg which has since become chronic, necessitating consistent chiropractic care, said the complaint.

The effects of the sexual assault have been devastating to Doe, said the lawsuit.

“She has suffered and continues to suffer from serious physical and emotional symptoms including severe chronic back, hip and leg pain, depression, anxiety, sleep disturbances, and post-traumatic stress disorder.”

Doe’s severe back pain is a direct result of the trauma she suffered and is projected to worsen over time, said the statement.

“Once a social and outgoing young woman, she has become far more reserved, hesitant and afraid to attend social events.”

A series of attacks

According to the complaint, Fontes — a native of Brazil and a religious pastor — appears to have engaged in similar conduct on several other occasions.

In 2018, he had been caught doing the same thing in Brazil. A news story from website g1.globo.com in October 2018 said that Fontes had been arrested for cutting holes in portable toilets in a city park in Brasília.

At his arrest, a hand saw was seized — with an improvised handle with electrical tape — and a large knife.

In that case, Fontes, was said to be a “bishop of the Ministry Attracting Nations to the Altar of God” in Vicente Pires, a region in the Federal District in Brazil.

He was reportedly charged with sexual harassment and damage. Together, the sentences can reach five and a half years in prison, according to g1.globo.com.

Nevertheless, Fontes continued his pattern of assaults.

Fontes made his way to the U.S. where just weeks before BottleRock 2019, he assaulted another woman at a street fair in Alameda County, Her case was wrapped into Napa’s prosecution of Fontes.

Then Fontes traveled to Napa for BottleRock.

According to the lawsuit, Fontes was also at the festival the day before, on May 24, and had taken photos and videos of women using the bathroom.

On May 25, the day of Jane Doe’s assault in Napa, Fontes had also taken a video of a couple together inside the restroom.

Fontes went back to BottleRock for a third day. He was arrested at 9:20 p.m. Sunday at Napa Valley Expo, the site of BottleRock.

He was charged with felony penetration by a foreign object, felony vandalism, burglary and misdemeanor peeking while loitering.

On that Sunday night, a BottleRock official was checking an area with restrooms and saw a man behind one of the restrooms acting suspiciously. The official confronted the man until Napa police arrived, the press release said.

In December 2019, Fontes was found guilty of two counts of sexual penetration by force, one count of second-degree burglary, and one count of vandalism. Both the Alameda and Napa victims testified.

The jury also found true a special allegation that the amount of damage caused by the vandalism was over $400, Napa County District Attorney Allison Haley reported.

He was sentenced to 16 years and eight months in prison. As of this week, he was at San Quentin Prison.

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Business Editor

Jennifer Huffman is the business editor and a general assignment reporter for the Napa Valley Register. I cover a wide variety of topics for the newspaper. I've been with the Register since 2005.

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