by Tiffany Yeh
Defendant Ephrem Rukundo was found not guilty on all three charges: felony oral copulation with an unconscious person, felony anal or genital penetration of an unconscious person with a foreign object, and misdemeanor sexual battery.
The jury began deliberating around 12:26pm Thursday (June 2, 2016). Around 3:40pm the same day, the jury reached a verdict.
Shortly before and while the verdict was being read, Mr. Rukundo leaned his head against his two intertwined hands. Deputy Public Defender Dean Johansson patted the defendant’s back after the verdict was read. The defendant seemed to be emotional.
After the verdict was read, a female in the audience started crying and walked out abruptly from the courtroom with a sob. Two of her friends followed her out the door, attempting to comfort her.
Jurors declined to speak to the Vanguard and seemed to be relieved that their jury service was over.
By Prince Sahota
The evidence in the trial of Ephrem Rukundo concluded with closing arguments by the prosecution and the defense. The case involved an alleged sexual assault of “TA,” a UC Berkeley graduate, on the UC Davis campus in April of 2015 by Ephrem Rukundo, a French international PhD student at the same university.
Prosecutor Deanna Hays explained that Mr. Rukundo used his life experience, education and political connection to convince women to sleep with him. She claimed the defendant announced that his father was a diplomat with the United Nations and gave speech(es) in New York City. The defendant is allegedly a survivor of genocide in Rwanda, Africa. The defendant had an interpreter in court. Ms. Hays called this an attempt to create a false story of oppression. Ms. Hays said these facts were brought to light so the court would view the defendant with sympathy. Prosecutor Hays deemed these alleged facts to be an attempt to overshadow his criminal act.
Ms. Hays contended that family members of the defendant only knew the good side of the defendant, not his ability to be a “sexual predator.”
The prosecutor reviewed the official jury instructions for California law. These included instructions for oral copulation pursuant to Penal Code section 288a(f), sexual penetration according to Penal Code section 289(d), and sexual battery pursuant to Penal Code section 243(e)(1).
Hays stated that the complaining witness, TA, could not give consent to sex. Hays did accept that TA did not experience severe injury. However, she warned that for sexual assault victims who were unconscious, force does not have to be used in the act. She maintained that the lack of need to use force helps criminals justify their behavior.
Ms. Hays asserted that the sexual assault exam at the Sutter Medical Center proved all three crimes. She declared that penetration occurred, based on layers of DNA evidence found on TA’s body. She was alluding to expert witness testimony by Lillian Bert and Nicole Shea. First, the semen protein was discovered by taking swabs of the alleged victim’s vaginal and anal areas, and Mr. Rukundo was one of three possible contributors. This conclusion was based on variables in genetic markers which distinguish people from each other.
Prosecutor Hays turned to social norms. She maintained that the defendant knew how to conduct himself at an American university party. She pointed out that he never had a conversation with the alleged victim to form consent for sex.
Ms. Hays shifted the court’s attention to the defendant’s phone in his possession the night and morning of the incident. She maintained that defendant Rukundo spoke with the Davis Police Department on May 4, 2015. When the police executed a search warrant, they gathered a brand new phone. During her closing statement she characterized Mr. Rukundo as a “sophisticated criminal.”
Next, Deputy Public Defender Dean Johansson presented to the court. He accepted the DNA evidence without question. Both he and Ms. Hays stipulated that a toxicology report would show that TA’s consciousness was not impaired. Further, he argued that TA was not under the influence of any drugs.
Johansson presented a photograph depicting Mr. Rukundo, his date “LS” (the alleged victim’s friend) and TA as happy. He wanted the jury to see that the alleged victim’s eyes were open, and not drunk. He argued that it was suspicious that no photos were found of the party because so many contemporary young people use technology to document social events in a positive way.
Johansson argued that TA wanted to have sex with a lady named “V,” however, she became very upset when the lady departed from the scene. He said that TA sobbed in the middle of and in view of party attendees to seek attention.
Mr. Johansson argued that TA consciously undressed at the party and she lifted her hips as the defense claimed. He accused TA of exaggerating that she was raped after a yearlong conspiracy to make this story up. He also said that TA only admitted to her supposed sex dream when he, the defense, finally asked her about it.
In the matter of the sexual assault exam, the defense claimed this was evidence of a conspiracy to fabricate. He explained that the report read that an assault took place between 3:30 a.m. and 3:45 a.m. while the sexual assault exam began at 4:12 a.m. TA was possibly motivated to hide her affair with the defendant because she was in a relationship, and she had a sexual encounter with her friend’s new date.
In her statement following the defense’s, Prosecutor Hays declared that the defendant fantasized that the complaining witness contacted him physically and sexually prior to any sexual act. She said movement by TA was not volitional during sleep. She challenged the theory from the defense of fabricating the complaint. She recalled TA saying that her underwear was inside out, so TA could not have made up the narrative. She said that the jury could find it believable that a man would commit this crime while a victim was sleeping, if they would think as if in the mind of a criminal person. Hays named this condition “the beauty of the crime, because the victim had no idea what happened to her.” Hays mentioned that TA’s unclear memory is common in sexual assault cases. In her final statement she asked that Rukundo not be rewarded for being a good criminal, but that the jury find him guilty.
By Misha Berman
“I did not have consensual sex with Mr. Rukundo,” stated the alleged victim when Deputy District Attorney Deanna Hays asked her if she had had consensual sex with the defendant, Ephrem Rukundo.
Witness testimony resumed earlier today on June 1, 2016, in the trial of Mr. Rukundo. The complaining witness in this case resumed her testimony from the prior court day. Ms. Hays first asked the alleged victim if she hit or slapped Mr. Rukundo when he was leaving the morning after the alleged sexual assault. The alleged victim said that she did.
“Were you sober in the morning?” asked Deputy Public Defender Dean Johansson.
Judge Dave Rosenberg then stated that Mr. Johansson needed to be clearer on what exactly he meant by “sober.” Johansson then asked the alleged victim if she had had any drug or medication on April 26, 2015. The alleged victim stated that she was only taking birth control.
Judge Rosenberg then asked Ms. Hays to read the questions the jurors wrote down. One of the questions one of the jurors wrote was “how loud were you when you said that you can’t f— girls when they are sleeping?” The alleged victim responded that she was very loud.
Ms. Hays asked her to demonstrate in the courtroom how loud she was – and she was very loud. The second question one of the jurors wrote was “how do you know you didn’t (achieve) orgasm if you were sleeping?” Judge Rosenberg then stated this question was too vague and needed to be more specific.
Ms. Hays then asked the alleged victim, “Did you ever wake up wet when you had a sex dream?” The alleged victim responded that she had not.
The next witness was the alleged victim’s twin sister, “AA.” Ms. Hays asked AA if she and her sister sleep in the same room most of the time they are together. AA responded she and her twin sister do. Ms. Hays then asked AA if there were ever times when her twin sister was asleep but she was awake. AA responded that there were times this occurred.
Ms. Hays asked AA if she ever encountered, while being awake, her twin sister walking while she was asleep or doing “physical acts” in her sleep. AA said no.
The third witness, Officer John Evans, was called in to testify. “I was first assigned to the case on April 27, 2015,” said Officer Evans.
Ms. Hays asked Officer Evans when he first communicated with Mr. Rukundo. Evans responded that he first communicated with Rukundo on May 4, 2015. Ms. Hays asked Officer Evans when Mr. Rukundo was arrested. Evans responded that the defendant was arrested after the “search warrant” on May 6, 2015.
Officer Evans said that Mr. Rukundo was searched and a phone was found. Then photos were taken.
Ms. Hays then showed the jury one of the pictures that was identified as “People’s 20.” She asked Officer Evans if he knew what was in that picture. Officer Evans responded that it was a room in Mr. Rukundo’s apartment.
Mr. Johansson approached and said that Officer Evans stated during earlier testimony that the cell phone was broken. Officer Evans said, no, that was not the case. Mr. Johansson then stated that Officer Evans said that they could not use the phone to investigate because there is a password that was hard to “break into.”
Mr. Johansson then asked where Mr. Rukundo was arrested. Evans said the defendant was arrested at his front door. Ms. Hays then had the floor again, and asked if there were any DNA samples taken from Rukundo. Evans responded that DNA samples were not taken from Rukundo until May 25, 2015.
“Because no results came back from DOJ, since no DNA had come back from [the alleged] victim,” responded Officer Evans.
Ms. Hays asked if any DNA samples were taken from the alleged victim. Officer Evans responded affirmatively. Ms. Hays asked Officer Evans if DNA samples are ever taken from suspects. Officer Evans responded that sometimes they are taken from suspects, and they have to be taken from suspects as soon as possible.
Ms. Hays then said that they identified Mr. Rukundo using his DNA sample, after Mr. Rukundo gave a sample of his DNA. The jury had more questions. Ms. Hays then read the questions. The first question by one of the jurors was “how many victims of sexual assault did you interview in your career? And how many child victims of sexual assault did you interview?” Officer Evans responded that he has interviewed “over 100” sexual assault victims and, in regard to child sexual assault victims, “some children.”
The next question one of the jurors asked was “have you ever talked to suspects of sexual assault?” Officer Evans responded yes, that he has interviewed suspects of sexual assault. Ms. Hays continued with the jury questions, and the next question by one of the jurors was “have you had the opportunity talk to victims of sexual assault who were unconscious or intoxicated, and how many?” Officer Evans responded that he has, and added that he has spoken to “a lot because Davis is a college town.”
The next question by one of the jurors was the same as the last, except it was rephrased as whether he had spoken to “suspects” of sexual assault against victims who were “unconscious or intoxicated.” Officer Evans also responded that he has.
The final question by one of the jurors was “do you have training in dealing with victims who have memory problems due to trauma, intoxication or unconsciousness?” Officer Evans responded that he has, and that a lot of the victims of sexual assault he interviewed had this issue.
Judge Rosenberg then dismissed Officer Evans and concluded with informing the jurors with what would happen next.
“Attorneys will present closing arguments. Closing arguments are by no means evidence. I will now give instructions on law. Then we will be done for the day,” said the judge.
Judge Rosenberg stated that closing arguments will be at 9:00am in Department 14 on Thursday, June 2.
By Prince Sahota
In the case against defendant Ephrem Rukundo, evidence concluded for both parties, with witnesses and the defendant testifying about the facts of this case. The trial is following an alleged sexual assault incident which occurred at a party at the University of California, Davis.
Defendant Rukundo is charged as follows in accordance with California state law: oral copulation under Penal Code section 288a(f), sexual penetration as stated in Penal Code section 289(d), and sexual battery pursuant to Penal Code section 243(e)(1).
Prosecutor Deanna Hays resumed her cross-examination of Mr. Rukundo. He explained that on the night of the alleged incident in April of 2015, TA, the complaining witness in this case, had sex with consent. Rukundo’s premise was that she pulled his arms towards the crouching position of her body. The defendant decided that he would go with it and follow TA’s lead during the incident. The defendant testified that he ejaculated and the alleged victim reached an orgasm. He noted hearing TA curse following the sexual act and saying that “you don’t f— girls while they are sleeping …”
Then, the prosecutor called AA, the alleged victim’s twin sister, to the witness stand. When asked if her sister ever sleepwalks or talks in her sleep, she said no. When Mr. Johansson cross-examined this witness, he asked her if she had discussed her testimony with Ms. Hays or Officer John Evans, a police officer with the Davis Police Department, assigned to this case.
Soon thereafter, Officer Evans was called by the prosecutor to explain his role in this case. He remembered executing a search warrant. He traveled to and entered Mr. Rukundo’s apartment, where he obtained the accused person’s phone, and pictures were taken. Evans admitted that he did not retrieve information from the phone. However, he said the district attorney’s office had a crime lab which could gather electronic information.
The jury asked questions of Officer Evans regarding his experience. He was asked to state the number of sexual assault cases he had worked on. He expressed that he had worked on 100 cases and 60 percent of those took place or allegedly took place in a college town. He noted that suspects in these kinds of cases tend to allege to be under the influence of alcohol, while victims are certain that they were unconscious when they suffered from a criminal act. The testimony then concluded in this case, followed by the decision of which exhibits, including items and photos, would be admitted into evidence. Closing arguments will take place on June 2, 2016.