By Fiona Davis
SACRAMENTO, CA – Octavian Joseph—charged with 23 felony counts related to sexual assault, kidnapping and false imprisonment—was set for trial after his preliminary hearing here this week in Sacramento County Superior Court.
Five separate alleged victims have independently reported that, throughout much of 2019, Joseph allegedly committed several acts of rape, at times using force, violence, or fear in order to hold them against their will.
While Joseph has not been previously convicted of any sexual crimes, he was charged with domestic violence in 2017, and for committing a “lewd or lascivious act” with a child in 2018, until both these cases were dismissed, according to evidence presented the prelim this week.
During Joseph’s preliminary hearing, Deputy District Attorney Scott Schweibish called upon three police witnesses involved in Joseph’s case to testify, who each positively identified the defendant sitting in the court.
As the officers relayed the details of the victims’ alleged assaults, the prosecution presented a pattern of criminal behavior because Joseph’s alleged actions remained somewhat consistent in each reported assault.
According to the alleged victims, Joseph would force each of the women into a confined space, preventing them from being able to leave until he was satisfied sexually.
Much of alleged assaults occurred in cars, as the defendant would lock the passenger side door, continually speed, or bring them to a remote location so the victim could not leave.
When these reported assaults did occur in the home of either Joseph or the victim at the time, he would supposedly stand in front of the door to prevent anyone from getting out.
These reported incidents often occurred over the course of several hours, and the accused frequently used and threatened physical violence throughout the assault
One victim reported that he had forced her into a bathroom, where he then assaulted her, by pulling a hammer from behind his back and saying, “I don’t want to have to forcefully get what I want.”
Another victim recalled sitting in the car with Joseph, and telling him that she did not want to perform oral sex after he had asked her to. He then supposedly reached toward the backseat, as if to grab something, and told her “I don’t want to have to shoot your dumb ass.”
Then, during this same victim’s sexual assault, whenever she tried to move away, the defendant would then supposedly hit her “to the point where she was seeing stars” and her face was numb.
Beyond these threats and acts of violence, the prosecution attempted to demonstrate how Joseph was purportedly determined to get what he wanted, even as the victim in question, either verbally or physically, told him they did not want to have sex with him.
In one glaring example, a victim stated that she had been holding her young daughter when Joseph began to assault her. When she told him to stop, he became aggressive and began to yell at her. This caused her to become scared, and eventually led to the defendant reportedly assaulting her while she was still holding her child.
On the defense side, court-appointed defender Keith Staten raised numerous objections throughout the prosecution presentation, at times claiming that statements given by victims were “hearsay” or “speculative.”
Judge Shelleyanne W.L. Chang, who oversaw Joseph’s preliminary hearing, overruled all except one of these objections.
In his line of questioning, Staten appeared to challenge the reported fear of the victims, and asked why they were not more determined to leave.
He pointed to one incident where Joseph allegedly took the phone of the victim and threw it in the backseat of the car they were sitting in. Staten asked why the woman had not simply tried to reach back and grab her phone from the backseat.
With this question, he appeared to indicate that she had not been as trapped as she had reportedly been.
Staten also seemed to focus on moments where the alleged victims did not verbally or physically convey that they did not want have sex with the defendant.
While questioning an officer, the defense attorney indicated that one victim “was afraid, but she does not complain to [Joseph]” during at least part of the assault. The officer then corrected him, stating that “she said no.”
The officer also recalled that the woman reportedly assaulted while holding her child had told the defendant that she did not want to have intercourse with him.
“She advised him at that time that she did not want to,” the officer told the court.
Yet, during his closing arguments, Staten argued that this particular victim did not make her feelings clear, stating that “her actions are not showing an unwillingness to have sex at that time.”
Staten also focused on the type of relationship held between the victims and Joseph.
Regarding one victim, he posited that she wanted to be in a relationship with Joseph. The officer being questioned then contradicted him, stating that the alleged victim “did not indicate that.”
Similar corrections to Staten’s interpretation of events were made by police witnesses and the deputy district attorney throughout the hearing.
In her ruling, Judge Chang stated that the testimony given in court had showcased a “continuum of menace and threats” that met the prosecution’s burden of proof.
With this, she determined that there was enough evidence to prove Joseph had committed all but one of the 23 counts, which the prosecution had previously chosen not to pursue. Joseph is now expected to be tried before a jury, His arraignment and trial setting is Sept. 16.