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In Washington Where Just Sticking in the Little Part is Rape, Recap of the Jack Venice Trial

I bet Jack Venice is wishing he had never gone to Pullman, Washington. If you’ve missed any of the Venice rape trial in Colfax, Washington this week, Venice was found guilty. Venice, whose real name is Christopher Jack Reid was convicted of second-degree rape, first-degree burglary and two counts of residential burglary. He was acquitted of attempted residential burglary.

After four days of testimony this week and hours of deliberations between jury members, Venice left the Whitman County Courthouse in Colfax in police custody about 9:30 p.m. Friday.

Venice’s convictions stem from Sept. 12 and Sept. 13 incidents last year when Venice and Kyle M. Schott, a 24-year-old former Washington State University student, broke into several sororities on the WSU campus and raped a former member of Kappa Alpha Theta. Venice did not testify in his trial.

Whitman County Superior Court Judge David Frazier, next, will sentence Venice December 5, and Venice could be given up to life in prison.

Schott, who was Venice’s compadre while Venice partied at Washington State University last year thinking he was going to be a one-man Shane’s World, testified against Venice in exchange for a plea bargain. Schott pleaded guilty to third-degree rape and second-degree burglary earlier this month. He is serving a 13-month sentence in state prison.

For his part in the affair, the jury found Venice, an adult film actor, guilty of sexually assaulting a woman sleeping at the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority Sept. 13, 2007.

After turning himself in days after the then alleged attack, Venice pled not guilty to charges of second-degree rape, a Class A felony that carries a maximum sentence of life in prison and a $50,000 fine. He also pled not guilty to a charge of first-degree burglary, two charges of residential burglary and a charge of attempted residential burglary.

The minimum sentence for second-degree rape is about six and half years if there is no prior conviction.

It was while in Pullman, that Venice broke into three sororities and a fraternity, along with former WSU student Schott. Schott has since been expelled.

Before the rape, the Venice and Schott walked into a house party near Campus and Ruby streets. Venice bragged to people there that he traveled the country, getting girls to have sex with him on camera. He offered one man $500 to use his bed for that purpose.

When Venice pulled out his penis, house residents are said to have kicked him and Schott out.

Venice and Schott then attempted to break into Alpha Gamma Rho. They then broke into Delta Gamma, Pi Beta Phi, and Kappa Alpha Theta, where Venice spooned and sexually touched a woman.

When Venice asked Schott to hand him a condom, the woman woke up and the two fled. Venice did not have intercourse with the woman, but under Washington state law, an act of penetration is an act of rape. The woman who was not a member of the sorority, reported the alleged rape about 4:30 a.m.

Jury selection for the Venice case finished Monday. Judge Frazier grilled 56 potential jurors about their ability to be impartial during the trial. Each juror also filled out a preliminary questionnaire.

“You must follow the court’s instruction of the law, regardless of if your opinions or beliefs differ from the law,” Frazier told them. “We are not asking you these questions to pry into your personal lives. We’re asking to try to have a fair, balanced jury here.” Venice pleaded not guilty to a charge of second-degree rape, a charge of first-degree burglary, two charges of residential burglary and a charge of attempted residential burglary.

Of the 56 potential jurors, Frazier released them for various reasons. Some of the jurors said their experiences and views about pornography would not allow them to give Venice a fair trial. Others were overly familiar with many of the witnesses, Frazier said.

Because of the nature of the case, Frazier asked all but three of the potential jurors individually about their experiences with the adult film industry, unwanted sexual conduct and media coverage of the alleged incident.

He asked if they could be fair, unbiased and impartial when weighing the evidence. Many weren’t sure. “I can be a big girl about this, but it would be difficult,” juror No. 25 said. “I find the whole issue disturbing and very unnerving.” When one juror said she could have problems being sympathetic, defense attorney Chris Bugbee said the case was too important to be unsure. He repeatedly told jurors they would have to separate emotions from the evidence.

“What we want is an important decision to not be based on an emotional reaction,” he said. “We want cases to be decided based upon the evidence and the rational analysis of how these factors apply to the facts.”

Frazier excused some jurors for potential bias within minutes. Others carefully weighed before the court their own feelings and a desire to be impartial regardless. After eight hours, Frazier instructed the remaining jurors to return without discussing the case with anyone. Frazier also prohibited them from reading, listening or watching anything regarding the case in the media.

“We want to make sure we are very careful and cautious,” Frazier said.

Venice sat quietly during the trial, occasionally turning to glance at his family and a woman in the audience with whom he held hands during the recess. This was assumed to be Hannah Hilton, Venice’s porn star girlfriend.

Few jurors made eye contact with Venice while being questioned. Upon completion of the questioning, Frazier thanked candidates for being honest about their own possible biases and preconceptions.

Once the trial began, the victim, who was never identified, went on the stand. She was a then 21-year-old female WSU student. During the night in question, she went out with a few friends. They split a pitcher of beer and then went to the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority house.

They left for food and came back to watch a movie in a small side bedroom. The woman fell asleep in the bedroom. Her friends left to sleep at the sorority’s sleeping porch. Less than three hours later, the woman awoke with two men in the room. The first thing she remembered was hands on her face and inside her underwear. When she moved, the men fled.

“I just remember turning around and looking at what was going on,” she told a jury this week. “I saw a man’s face. I heard a wrapper sound. I heard, when turning over, a loud whisper of ‘She’s awake. Go!’”

When Whitman County Prosecutor Denis Tracy asked her who was the man she saw, the woman pointed her finger at Venice.

The woman was the first witness to testify in Reid’s trial.

The prosecutor and the defense attorney painted two very different pictures of the events leading to the alleged rape.

Tracy said Venice visited College Hill with a mission, a mission to find girls to have sex with him on and off the camera. He said Venice repeatedly bragged about his work to others, and directly asked at least one woman to sleep with him on-camera.

Defense attorney Chris Bugbee said Venice was between shooting movies and came to Pullman looking only to party. Bugbee said Venice bragged only to make friends and because he’s proud of his work.

Bugbee said Venice was convinced to participate in some of the night’s activities by Schott whose 13-month sentence was part of a plea bargain to testify against Venice, Tracy said.

Bugbee insisted that Venice was not the man the woman saw in the room.

“The presumption of innocence, this man is draped in it,” Bugbee told jurors during his opening statements. “In fact, you must assume he is as innocent as you.”

During their opening statements, both Tracy and Bugbee told the jury their side of the story. Both mostly agreed on the events that took place – until about 4 a.m.

Around noon that Wednesday, Venice went to Munchyz’s looking to make friends. He went to Stubblefield’s, where he met Schott. Schott and Reid stayed at Stubblefield’s until 2 a.m., and then left, looking for parties. Here, the stories begin to differ.

One witness testified that at least two men climbed onto the porch at Pi Beta Phi sorority. She didn’t call police because she thought they might be fraternity men, visiting or playing a prank on friends or girlfriends. She would later tell police she saw Venice steal a soda, and that he left after refusing to tell her why he was in the house

The two men then went to Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity around 3:30 a.m. and fiddled with the key pad and doorknob. Tracy said they were deliberately looking for women to rape and molest, mistaking the fraternity for a sorority.

Bugbee remained fast that Venice and Schott were looking for a party.

Both agree Venice, the more gregarious of the two, did most of the talking. The two fraternity members who came to the door told them to leave.

“By the time they left, [Venice] was very intoxicated,” Bugbee said. “He wanted to go home. Schott didn’t want him to.”

Bugbee said Venice then tried to call a cab at Delta Delta Delta, but the two left before doing so.

Venice then entered Delta Gamma sorority and let Schott in. When a sorority member told them to leave, Venice ran to a piano and began playing it, Tracy said. Another nearby sorority member who heard the noise kicked the two out. The two women told police the men left about 3:57 a.m.

Tracy said Venice still needed to find someone to have sex with.

Bugbee said Venice was tired and wanted to go home, but Schott convinced him to stay out longer. Bugbee said Venice’s job excited Schott, who was convinced Venice could be his ticket to meeting girls.

Bugbee said Venice left Schott before the incident at Kappa Alpha Theta.

Though the accounts differ, both sides agreed two men entered the sorority. Tracy said at least one looked at porn downstairs, before they found the victim sleeping.

Tracy said both men sexually touched the victim and that Venice also had intercourse with her.

“Don’t forget Kyle Schott’s there,” Tracy said. “He’s not the good guy in this.”

Meanwhile Bugbee said Venice was not there, but was an easy target for the charges. He said Venice was not looking to make porn, and only said that to impress people.

“[Venice] is a scapegoat, and he’s a darn good scapegoat,” Bugbee said. “He had no film crew. He talks a big game, but he had no intent to do scenes in Pullman. Despite what he said, it’s just his way to get in and meet people.”

Bugbee also questioned the victim about her confidence in identifying Venice last September and now. She said she was initially too shocked to be sure, but is now 100 percent certain.

The victim said she was just sleeping over with friends when she was sexually assaulted by a total stranger. The victim said she was sound asleep on the floor of the Theta sorority when she awoke to the sensation of someone touching her genitals.

She said that as soon as she came to she realized there were two strangers lying behind her and she says she knows Venice was one of them.

Then a third man who involved in the Sept. 12, 2007 rape and burglaries on College Hill testified.

Colin Davis, a former WSU student who lives in Pullman, told the jury he went home before 2 a.m., leaving Schott and Venice outside Stubblefield’s. He said he went to bed and did not see either of the men again that night.

“We were going back in Stubblefield’s and I decided to go home,” he said. However, he said his memory of the night is foggy from drinking. Upon further questioning, Davis said he was “next to positive” he went home, but not 100 percent certain. He said he could not recall if Schott called him later and asked him to come back out.

“I know I went home that evening. I recall leaving them and I’m pretty sure after that,” he said. “I’m as sure as I can be.” Davis said he was good friends with Schott, but they did not discuss Schott’s arrest or criminal charges in the weeks after that night.

Davis has not been charged with a crime, but he agreed to give Whitman County Prosecutor Denis Tracy and Pullman Police Det. Greg Umbright access to his cell phone records. While on the stand, he agreed to meet with Umbright to further discuss his testimony.

Davis said he met Venice in line at Stubblefield’s. Venice bought Davis and Schott drinks and the three drank together for hours. Davis said Venice told them he was in town to find girls to have sex with him on-camera. Davis said he does not recall many details about the night, such as his clothing, because he did not expect to be asked about them later.

Davis said he went home early because he had class Sept. 13. He missed those classes.

Later that day, Davis, Schott and friends went to a Moscow bar. When the friends noticed Schott’s newly shorn hair and shaved face, they joked that he was the bearded man who’d been named in the attacks. Davis said Schott did not discuss what happened after he left that night.

“You weren’t the least bit curious about what happened to your friend, with the porn star?” defense attorney Chris Bugbee asked. “You went home that night thinking the fun was all over?” Davis replied that he went home because of his classes.

Before Davis took the witness stand, forensic scientist Lisa Turpen gave her testimony.

Turpen, a Washington State Patrol DNA analyst, did DNA tests on some of the evidence in the case. Those tests included a condom wrapper and tampon found in the Kappa Alpha Theta bedroom where the alleged rape occurred. She also tested a sexual assault evidence kit, or rape kit, completed Sept. 13.

She found DNA on the condom wrapper from the victim and two men, she said. The complex mixture of DNA did not rule out the possibility of more than three individuals.

She said both Schott and Venice could have contributed to the DNA on the condom wrapper. However, forensic statistics show one in three Americans would also test as potential contributors. Therefore, DNA tests could not conclusively pinpoint or exclude Schott or Venice she said. An Ohio DNA analyst, who also tested evidence, told the jury she found male DNA on the victim’s tampon string. The amount of DNA was too small to identify a contributor.

Other witnesses included law enforcement, a bartender who served the men at Stubblefield’s, a man whose house Schott and Venice partied at and a man who met Venice at Munchy’z earlier Sept 12.

Schott who also got up on the stand this week said not a day has passed since Sept. 12, 2007, that he hasn’t thought about that night in which he drunkenly raped a woman sleeping at the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority.

Schott told the jury his murky memories of the night. His testimony provided yet another version of facts in the Venice trial.

Schott said he and Venice were drinking until last call at Stubblefield’s around 1:45 a.m. on Sept 13. They went to a house party, but were kicked out when Venice showed his penis to residents of the house.

Schott said Venice wanted to find more parties or sororities. When asked why, Schott said Venice wanted to find women.

“Pretty much just because there was females in there, that’s what he was looking for,” Schott said.

Sitting slumped in a gray suit, Schott told of boosting Venice into at least one window and one balcony after they left the bar.

He said Venice first went into Pi Beta Phi and then Delta Gamma. When Venice opened the front door of Delta Gamma for Schott, a sorority member was already asking him to leave. Another member came into the room and did the same.

“I stood at the entryway thinking, ‘What’s he going to do next?” Schott said. “(The women) were both saying ‘You can’t be in here,’ but the general feeling I got was they were laughing, like ‘What the hell’s going on?’” Schott said Venice then wanted to break into Kappa Alpha Theta. They entered the house, pausing briefly in a study room.

“I was reluctant at first, but then it seemed, to me at the time, kind of funny,” Schott said. “We walked by the front door like, ‘All right, let’s go.’ So we walked up the stairs.” The two heard a TV on in a bedroom down the hall. They walked in and saw a woman sleeping.

Schott said Venice lifted off her blanket, while Schott nudged her to see if she’d wake. Schott said Venice bragged that he could get the woman to sleep with him.

“Jack explained this is what he was looking for,” Schott said. “I was kind of reluctant, but he seemed used to the situation.” Schott said his biggest mistake was egging Venice on, saying Venice couldn’t seduce the woman.

Schott said Venice fondled the woman and may have penetrated her with his penis or finger. Schott said he touched the woman sexually as well. He said the fact is difficult to admit.

“There hasn’t been a day since it happened that I haven’t felt sorry, not for myself, but for her, her whole sorority and the whole situation,” he said. “I had never been in a situation like that. It was just stupidity and curiosity that drove me to do so.” Schott said after he touched the woman, he sat in the corner, looking at DVDs while Venice fondled and possibly raped the woman. When she awoke, they ran.

Almost every sorority or fraternity member who met Schott and Venice that night said the two seemed drunk and mischievous, but not necessarily harmful.

The defense and prosecutor interrogated each witness as to the exact times of these encounters. They asked one woman if she noticed Venice and Schott in her house at 3:40 or 3:50 a.m. They asked one man if the two stayed outside his fraternity for five minutes or 10.

The witnesses tried to remember. If they offered a time that differed even slightly from their initial police statements, they were questioned further.

Both sides want a clear timeline of events, which could exonerate or incriminate Reid. No such timeline has developed.

During the Colin Davis testimony, Davis said he went home around 2 a.m., that night before Schott and Venice broke into the Greek houses and assaulted the sleeping woman.

Davis said he was not 100 percent certain, and that Schott may have called him later to ask him to come back out. He agreed to hand over his cell phone records. Pullman Police Det. Greg Umbright later said those call records show no such call occurred. Schott and Davis did not contact each other by phone again until the next afternoon.

Tracy and Bugbee repeatedly asked witnesses if they saw a third man. The only person who answered affirmatively was a senior member of Pi Beta Phi.

She said she saw Venice and another, shorter man inside her house and Schott outside on the porch.

Tracy said that Davis has not been charged with a crime, is not under investigation and is not a suspect.

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