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Jury trial begins in rape case

THE jury trial of Manolo Romolor, who is accused of raping an intoxicated woman, started on Monday with the selection of six jurors and two alternates who were then given instructions by Superior Court Presiding Judge Roberto Naraja.

The government is charging Romolor, 35, with one count of sexual assault in the first degree and assault and battery.

He appeared out of custody with his defense counsel, Bruce Berline, while Assistant Attorneys General Teri Tenorio and Chester Hinds  represented the government.

In her opening statement, Tenorio said life is about making choices. “Up or down, yes or no, red or black — and there are also the choices that matter: to love or to hate, to be a hero or a coward, to have sex or not.”

Tenorio said “this case is about how that very important personal choice was taken away by the defendant from a young woman he considered a friend when he sexually assaulted her on Nov. 19, 2016.”

Tenorio said the government intends to prove that Romolor sexually assaulted the victim, and “he did so without her consent.”

The prosecutor added, “The evidence will show who committed this crime and where it happened and when it happened. And at the end of this case, we will prove what happened. Romolor did not give [the victim] a choice but rather made one of his own.”

Tenorio said the victim came to Saipan to work for the casino as a supervisor.

Tenorio told the jury that they will hear evidence and testimony that the victim went to a couple’s house for a birthday party of their daughter.

“As most parties, alcohol was being poured and passed around, and [the victim] consumed a lot of it until she became ill. [Her friends] cleaned up [the victim] and changed her clothes and put her to sleep in the couple’s bedroom.”

Tenorio said the evidence will show that at some point everyone was asleep after the party.

But then the victim “woke up because she felt someone was on top of her…and someone’s mouth was pressing hard, covering hers.” It was Romolor, the prosecution added.

Tenorio said the victim told Romolor to stop and get off her, but the defendant continued to have sexual intercourse with her.

Tenorio said at the conclusion of the case, the facts are going to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant “sexually assaulted the victim and he took away her choice to consent to have sex, violating her trust, her body and the law.”

Berline, Romolor’s counsel, disagreed with the prosecutor’s presentation, saying that his client is innocent of the charges and that the government will not be able to meet its burden in this case.

Berline said the government must prove beyond reasonable doubt that Romolor “coerced” the alleged victim — that he sexually assaulted her without her consent by the use of force, or threats of death, or imminent physical injury or kidnapping.

“That is really the crux of this case — consent,” Berline said.

He said after the party and when everyone was asleep, Romolor and the alleged victim had sex in the bedroom where the couple was asleep with their three children.

Berline said the mother of the children, who was inches away from them, woke up and saw Romolor and the alleged victim. She asked him what he was doing before she went back to sleep.

Berline said the alleged victim was embarrassed and full of regret after being caught having sex in the bedroom of her hosts.

 In order to “preserve her dignity and preserve herself from embarrassment, she blamed it on Manolo,” Berline said.

The government’s first witness was Police Officer Paul Ichihara who testified that he was the one who received the complaint from the alleged victim.

The trial, which is being held at the federal courthouse, will resume today, Wednesday, at 8:30 a.m., with the alleged victim testifying for the government.