Prosecutor Gressett fighting charge of rape
Demian Bulwa, Chronicle Staff Writer
Monday, July 27, 2009
"I remember crying and begging him to stop," she told police, according to a transcript of one of her interviews.
Gressett says the sex was kinky but mutual - that a gun, cuffs and ice were brought out but only in a playful way. Not only did his partner not object, he told his office during a personnel probe, but she mocked the small size of the handgun. She stopped him on the way back out of his townhouse, he said, and gave him oral sex.
"I did not wake up one day at 51 years old," Gressett said to internal investigators, "and go completely nuts."
Acquaintance rape cases often feature a consent defense and are ugly by nature, with the parties sparring over who is lying. But the decision to charge Gressett launched a legal battle strewn with accusations of sexual deviance and dirty politics.
He has been called a savage rapist akin to the man he convicted that fateful May afternoon for molesting a 4-year-old relative. She has been derided as a troubled fabricator whose story keeps changing.
Gressett is free on bail and on paid leave from his office. The woman, who was not rehired when her contract with the county ended last year, now works for another county. The Chronicle is not naming her because she is an alleged rape victim.
She told police she once looked up to Gressett, a 20-year office veteran known for his ability to make people laugh.
The sex crimes unit of the district attorney's office, she recalled, was a highly sexualized place where she, Gressett and others bantered about rough sex and directed gallows humor toward the crime victims they represented.
In the days before the alleged rape, she and Gressett grew closer. She said they traded suggestive text messages and had consensual sex at her San Francisco apartment.
She told police that she didn't immediately report the alleged lunchtime attack for several reasons. She knew the perils of testifying - "I should be the one that asks the questions," she said - and deemed her case to be "unwinnable."
Defense attorneys said she forwarded Gressett a humorous e-mail after the incident. She suggested to police that she and her sister were only trying to calm him as they plotted to kill him.
"We had a lot of discussions about this," she told police. "A lot."
Instead, she contacted a private attorney she knew, who got in touch with veteran Deputy District Attorney Paul Sequeira. She said she wanted Gressett fired but did not want to press criminal charges.
Sequeira alerted District Attorney Robert Kochly but never questioned Gressett, who continued to try cases. Kochly's office did not report the incident to Martinez police until Sept. 26.
"Generally, in sex assault cases, you try to respect the victim's wishes. She wasn't sure what she wanted to do," Sequeira said in an interview.
Daniel Russo, one of Gressett's attorneys, said the district attorney's office delayed action because officials didn't believe his accuser.
"If they believed the allegations, then letting him be around victims of sexual assaults goes beyond stupidity or laziness," Russo said. "They wanted to get rid of this guy who's dangerous politically to them."
Gressett was arrested Oct. 2, 2008, outside his office. Kochly then turned over a decision on charges to the state, citing a potential conflict of interest.
Gressett's attorneys plan to argue today that the state then allowed Kochly's top deputies to drive the case against Gressett - an assertion rejected by Sequeira, Martinez police officials and state prosecutors.
"I don't know anything about the interior politics of the D.A.'s office," said state prosecutor Peter Flores Jr. "We're prosecuting the case to avoid any of those conflicts."
E-mail Demian Bulwa at firstname.lastname@example.org.
||Truth in Justice