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Sexual assault trial under way

Posted: Thursday, May 2nd, 2013

Courier staff writer

CONEJOS — Did a Conejos County bartender sexually assault one of his customers in February 2012, or was the alleged victim too ill to remember what happened that night?

It will be up to a jury to answer that question.

Delfie Garcia’s trial began in Conejos on April 30, after the prosecution and defense assembled a jury of 11 men and two women, including one alternate juror.

The case centers around allegations that Garcia sexually assaulted a 42-year-old woman at his family’s restaurant and bar in Antonito on the night of Feb. 28, 2012.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Crista Maestas told jurors that Garcia made a conscious and clearheaded decision to have sex with the woman, even though she may have been incapacitated at the time.

Defense attorney Mérida Zerbi did not deny that her client had sex with the woman. But she told jurors that the evidence will show the encounter was consensual. Her client had no way of knowing the woman would not remember that they had consensual relations, Zerbi said.

The alleged victim, who has been in a long-term partnership with another woman, testified that she remembers drinking six alcoholic beverages while she was dining at the Dutch Mill that night. However, she said she never felt drunk or inebriated at any time.

It wasn’t until she was getting ready to leave that she felt something like tunnel vision, she said. She went to the restroom, and moments after she came out, the woman said she could not recall whatever happened next.

“I blacked out and the only thing I recollect was a visual — just a picture — of Delfino being on top of me,” she testified April 30.

When she woke up the next morning, the woman said she found herself in the bed of her hotel room without any pajamas on. She fell violently ill, and as the day wore on, she suspected that something might have happened to her, she said.

Eventually, the still-nauseous woman checked into an Alamosa hospital for an examination; a registered nurse subsequently reported the incident to police in Antonito.

The woman said she couldn’t explain how she blacked out, except to say that drugs other than alcohol might have been involved.

On May 1, jurors heard from forensic toxicologist Sarah Urfer, who said that tests of the woman’s blood and urine samples came back negative for the presence of any drugs, including “roofies,” or Rohypnol.

However, Urfer said it’s very unlikely that those kinds of “date rape” drugs would turn up in a urine sample 12 to 36 hours after a person ingested them.

Likewise, the effects of Rohypnol and similar drugs will only last for a few hours, she said.

The drugs usually kick in within 15 to 40 minutes, depending on whether or not there’s food in a person’s stomach. However, Zerbi noted that the alleged victim did not black out for three-and-a-half to four hours after she drank something that tasted odd to her.

In the meantime, the woman handled her liquor well: She played pool with others in the bar, and she had no trouble conversing with anyone, Zerbi said.

According to Zerbi, the woman’s symptoms appear to be more consistent with gastrointestinal distress, such as a case of food poisoning.

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