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South Dakota- from www.argusleader.com – One of two women who say an adult-business owner raped them in 2007 broke down on the witness stand Wednesday when questioned by her alleged assailant, but later told him bluntly that she’d rather see him in jail than win a jury payout.
Incarceration is not a possible outcome in the civil trial of Dave Eliason, who is being sued for sexual harassment by three former employees of Annabelle’s and Olivia’s adult superstores in Sioux Falls. Eliason was a former co-owner and manager of the stores.
Eliason, 44, is representing himself in the case, meaning he will personally cross examine each of the women. He says the allegations are false and told jurors Tuesday that he’d prove it.
At one point Wednesday morning, Eliason asked the first of his accusers to take the stand if she was seeking monetary damages.
“For you raping me?” she asked.
“For any of your allegations,” Eliason said.
“Honestly, I don’t care about the money. I’d rather see you go to jail,” she said.
All three women also have sued the stores for negligence, saying the ownership didn’t do enough to prevent the incidents. The stores, which Eliason is no longer associated with, are represented by a separate attorney.
Wednesday began with a description of a brutal rape in Eliason’s office in 2007. The woman told jurors that Eliason had called her back to talk during a shift at Annabelle’s, closed the door and handed her a sex toy before propositioning her.
When she refused, Eliason pushed her into the couch face-down and forced himself on her, she said.
Eliason was investigated by police but never charged of rape.
Under questioning from Mike Luce, the lawyer for Annabelle’s, she said she was too intimidated by her boss to report the rape to anyone. That included other managers at the store and other owners, who included Eliason’s wife and an investor and friend of Eliason’s who lives in Florida.
“I wanted to, but I was afraid of what he would do,” she said. “I was afraid it would get back to Dave.”
Eliason continued his questioning by asking about the office meeting on the day of the alleged rape.
“Did you at any point indicate that you preferred to do the interview with the door open or to do the interview in another room?” Eliason said.
She said no and began to weep shortly afterward, throwing her hands over her face and prompting a break in the proceedings.
When court resumed, Eliason asked her to repeat that she’d finished her shift after the alleged rape and continued coming to work for nearly a month after the incident.
He also asked her to clarify her statements about being intimidated into silence.
“Well, after you raped me, you told me it would take $250,000 for a lawyer good enough to beat me,” she said.
Eliason also challenged her assertion that he’d been upset and threatening when she and the two other employees arrived at Annabelle’s with police to ask for their last paychecks. Eliason told the women they couldn’t pick up their checks until they completed an exit interview, individually.
“(The police) were standing between you and the car telling you to calm down,” she said.
A therapist named Rebecca Trobec also testified Wednesday. She said she met with the woman three years after the incident.
“Is it common for people who’ve been through a traumatic event like that to wait three years before seeking help or taking action?” asked Aaron Eiesland, one of the lawyers for the plaintiffs.
“Three years is pretty short, actually,” Trobec said.
She said the woman was still highly traumatized and that Eliason still “had power” over her in 2010. Then, without prompting, she said, “I really feel like him having no attorney here is about power and control,” Trobec said.
Eliason and Luce each objected, and Judge Stuart Tiede told jurors to strike the remark from the record.
The trial is scheduled to continue through Friday.