By Fabiha Zaman
Rodwin Yamsone Vibat was charged with six counts, two for each victim in his case. The first three counts were sexual battery on each victim by fraudulent representation and the last three counts were for sexual battery. Each count included lesser charges of simple battery and simple assault.
On Monday afternoon in Department 14, the jury had reached a verdict in the matter of the People vs. Vibat. After the jury entered and settled in, the verdict forms were handed to substitute Judge Daniel Maguire for review.
The jury found Vibat guilty of sexual battery by fraudulent representation in respect to the first victim, R.H. Vibat was not found guilty of sexual battery by fraudulent representation in respect to the second and third victims, P.H. and H.C., but was found guilty of the lesser charge of simple battery with respect to the second and third victims.
Additionally, the jury found Vibat guilty on all three charges of sexual battery (in counts four, five, and six) with respect to all three of the victims.
The jury was excused after they were polled individually on their verdict. Deputy Public Defender Emily Fisher, representing Vibat, then argued that since Vibat was only convicted of one felony, he had the right to probation. Thus, Judge Maguire ordered that Vibat report to probation the next day and be equipped with a GPS unit. Vibat is allowed to visit Solano County, Alameda County, and San Francisco County with the GPS unit to see his family, tend to his sick aunt, and make arrangements for and attend the funeral of his other aunt.
On Thursday March 8 at 10 a.m. in Department 14, Vibat will have his preliminary hearing for the other misdemeanor charges. His attendance in court will also serve to ensure that he is using his GPS unit.
Vibat’s sentencing hearing will be held on April 17 at 10 a.m. in Department 14.
Previous: Closing Arguments in Massage Therapy Sexual Battery Case
By Jenean Docter
The closing arguments for the case of the People v. Rodwin Yamsone Vibat were heard in Department 14 on the morning of Friday, March 2. The Honorable David Rosenberg presided over the matter. Deputy Public Defender Emily Fisher represented Mr. Vibat, and Deputy District Attorney Ryan Couzens represented the People.
Ms. Fisher asserted that because the witnesses mentioned that they were aware of the sexual nature of the touching, the People’s argument that the victims believed the touching occurred only for professional reasons disintegrates.
Of course, victims of sexual assault can feel confused. So, according to Ms. Fisher, the prosecution lacks enough evidence to convict Mr. Vibat of the charges alleged against him.
Furthermore, Ms. Fisher stated that because witness “DC” began wearing bike shorts during her massages with Mr. Vibat, she was not directly touched in an intimate area. Additionally, witness and alleged victim “RH” knew that the touching was not acceptable, and spoke up to stop Mr. Vibat. Hence, Ms. Fisher argued, the law entitles Mr. Vibat to a ruling of not guilty for the charge of sexual battery by means of fraudulent representation.
Ms. Fisher also urged the jury to consider with caution statements made by Mr. Vibat. According to the defense, the police interrogation proves problematic in that it presents a power imbalance,
having been conducted by an experienced officer who “knew what to ask to get what he wanted to hear,” who yelled at Mr. Vibat and “put words in his mouth.”
Ms. Fisher presented the jury with an anecdote intended to explain the role of jurors in upholding the Bill of Rights. In her story, a 100-year-old man in hospice care decides to leave everything he owns to the fire department, rather than to his children. His children then hire psychologists to evaluate him in the hopes that they’ll determine he is insane. However, the last psychologist announces that the old man is sane because the fire department is the last bastion of common decency, which serves to save people without examining the immoral actions a person has committed in his or her lifetimes. According to Ms. Fisher, the jury is “another last bastion” – they serve to uphold the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights. She then asserted that if the jury is to fulfill its duty, it must find Mr. Vibat not guilty on all three counts.
Mr. Couzens began by stating that he agreed with Ms. Fisher in that this case is not about fraudulent representation. “This case cannot be described as a regular sexual assault case,” he affirmed.
“Groping is not a style,” Mr. Couzens asserted in response to Ms. Fisher’s argument that Mr. Vibat’s alleged pattern of inappropriately touching his clients fell into a style of massage. Some massage recipients didn’t experience his hands move farther than their collarbones. “He’s been putting his hands on people for eight years—he knows what he’s doing,” Mr. Couzens emphasized.
Mr. Couzens was unable to think of a non-sexual, reasonable and evidentially supported intent that Mr. Vibat may have had in mind when touching RH. In the police interview tape, Mr. Vibat spoke about “feeling sexual tension and energies,” and described such an experience as “a battle.” According to Mr. Couzens, the victims in this case took off their clothes and lay down for the purpose of receiving a professional massage. Hence, Mr. Vibat’s actions constitute a fraudulent misrepresentation of purpose.
Additionally, the victims’ consciousness about the sexual nature of the touching “does not have to be absolute,” according to Mr. Couzens. “Doubt is okay,” he continued, noting that no matter how quickly victims realized the touching was sexual and not professional, it was too late because the touching had already occurred. “He cannot escape that physical, immutable fact: the touching occurred first,” argued Mr. Couzens.
Mr. Couzens addressed the revelation of new information by the witnesses on the stand, noting that “things come out all the time on the witness stand.”
According to Mr. Couzens, all of the elements of the crimes alleged against Mr. Vibat were met, above the threshold of reasonable doubt.
Mr. Couzens described the argument that the “pulling of the nipple” is a “way of ending a massage” and not sexual in nature as “unreasonable.
“In this society, we take steps to protect ourselves. But, at some points, we have to open up to vulnerability and trust people. He’s been fired four times for touching women when he shouldn’t,” Mr. Couzens claimed. “The law exists to protect people who trust and are assaulted,” he continued.
The prosecution and the defense agreed on a single statement: the law should bring justice.