A clinical psychologist from Massachusetts was allowed to testify on behalf of the prosecution Wednesday during the second day of proceedings in the trial of Terry Allen Pepiot.
Pepiot, of Harrisburg, is accused of sexually assaulting a 20-year-old woman at the 2016 Bi-Mart Willamette Country Music Festival.
Judge Daniel Murphy sided with the prosecution to let Dr. Leslie Lebowitz testify on the effects of trauma as it relates to sexual assault victims.
Pepiot’s defense team argued against the testimony on the grounds Lebowitz, whom the Linn County District Attorney’s office paid to bring in from Massachusetts, had not evaluated the alleged victim and so could not conclude whether she had been assaulted. The defense also argued the testimony would be confusing to a jury, in that it suggests such a crime has been committed.
“It’s vouching,” argued defense lawyer Sarah Ferguson, adding that testimony about the effects of sexual abuse, when such a crime has not been proven, is “extremely prejudicial.”
Murphy ruled the testimony was important and useful for the jury to hear.
Defense attorney Ferguson, in her opening arguments Tuesday, said the sex was consensual, and that the alleged victim simply regretted the encounter.
“Regret is not sexual assault,” she said.
Linn County District Attorney Doug Marteeny asked Lebowitz to describe the symptoms and behaviors associated with traumatic experiences, specifically in sexual assault victims. She described a wide range of symptoms, which can include depression, guilt, anger, hyper alertness and possible substance abuse.
During cross-examination, Ferguson asked Lebowitz if she could testify whether the alleged victim exhibits any of the symptoms. Lebowitz replied that she could not.
Witness Ashley Taber, who was at the festival with the alleged victim, told Marteeny that Pepiot offered his motor home to the pair, and said he'd sleep in his truck if they felt uncomfortable. She testified that after a company-hosted after-party dance, she learned Pepiot had set the alleged victim up to sleep in his motor home. After learning that, Taber said she went back to the motor home to confirm she was safe.
Much later, Taber said she saw the alleged victim walk by the motor home.
“You could just tell that she’d been crying,” she said.
Asked how she reacted when Taber approached her, Taber replied, “She lost it."
After leaving the alleged victim with a friend, Taber said she talked with Pepiot.
“I asked, 'Why is she so upset?' And he said, ‘I know why.’”
Taber told the court that Pepiot told her, in graphic terms, that the two had had sex.
Deputy Michael Harmon of the Linn County Sheriff's Office also testified. He told Marteeny the alleged victim was intoxicated and hysterical when he spoke with her at the event. He said when he visited Pepiot at his trailer, “He told us he was expecting us.”
Harmon said Pepiot explained that he'd arranged to let the two young women sleep in his motor home, and that he would sleep on the small couch.
“He said he tried to fall asleep, but the couch was uncomfortable, so he laid on the back bed,” Harmon testified.
Harmon said Pepiot told him he removed the alleged victim’s clothes after she began to “grind up against” him. In an audio recording of the initial contact and subsequent arrest, Pepiot is heard describing the events to Harmon, at one point saying, “It’ll never happen again.”
Asked if the alleged victim knew it was Pepiot with her, he answered “I don’t know.”
Harmon is next heard saying to Pepiot, “The thing that trips me up the most is that you had an agreement that she would sleep in the back and you would sleep on the couch, and then you got up and went back to the bed.”
“Well, that’s how it happened,” Pepiot answered.
“Why?” pressed Harmon.
Pepiot told Harmon that had the alleged victim said "no," he would have stopped.
Harmon made the point that she didn’t expect him to be in the bed, and that she didn’t even know who was in the bed.
Pepiot is charged with four counts of first-degree sodomy, six counts of first-degree sexual abuse, two counts of second-degree sexual abuse and two counts of fourth-degree assault.
The prosecution has filed a notice of intent to seek an enhanced sentence in the case. Most of the charges are Measure 11 crimes with mandatory minimum prison sentences of several years in prison.
Harrisburg-based Guaranty RV owns the motor home that Pepiot, an employee, was using at the festival.
The trial is expected to conclude Thursday.