The same week his former team starts its defense of the national championship he helped them win last year, former UCSB soccer standout Eric Frimpong is defending himself against charges that he sexually assaulted one UCSB student and raped another earlier this year in Isla Vista.
During the next two to three weeks, prosecutor Mary Barron will try to meet the people’s burden of proof that Frimpong, a native of Ghana and fifth-year mathematics major, committed the crimes of which he has been accused. By the end of proceedings on Tuesday, Barron had called to the stand the alleged victim in the misdemeanor sexual assault charge and three of her friends, as well as two friends of the woman who has accused Frimpong of raping her on the beach in the early morning of February 17. Barron is expected to call many more witnesses, including a variety of experts and the alleged rape victim herself.
Day one of the trial revolved around a charge of misdemeanor sexual assault in which the alleged victim, who took the stand Monday, said Frimpong repeatedly grabbed her rear end after she specifically told him not to. According to her and her friends’ testimony, the woman and Frimpong had been running around on a dark, empty Isla Vista beach the morning of January 28. The woman testified that Frimpong grabbed her, and when she attempted to run away, Frimpong silently ran after her and tackled her from behind. She left her purse and her phone on the beach, and Frimpong eventually returned the items several days later.
Defense attorney Robert Sanger went after the alleged victim’s memory of the night, suggesting she was too intoxicated to remember what had happened. Multiple times, he asked her some variation of the question “You don’t really remember what happened that night, do you?” Through his questioning, Sanger suggested the victim and Frimpong had met multiple times in the past. The 19-year-old woman denied this, noting that it wasn’t until the news of Frimpong’s arrest for alleged rape in February that the woman came forward with her story. “I said, ‘This is in the news, and the same thing happened to me,’” she testified.
Day two saw two friends of the alleged rape victim-UCSB sophomores Lakshmi Krishna and Mia Wolfson-take the stand. The two were with the alleged victim for most of the day and some of the evening before the assault purportedly occurred. Wolfson estimated that the alleged victim had between eight and nine shots in the dorms before going to an Isla Vista house party around 10 p.m., but both women denied any use of marijuana or Ecstasy that night by the victim. Around 1 a.m., after Wolfson and Krishna left the party, Krishna said she received a phone call from the victim, who needed to be picked up. Both women described their friend as hysterical and crying for much of the night, and said she had some sort of bruise mark on her face and complained of other aches and pains. Covered in sand, she told them she had been raped on the beach by a guy she had met outside a party. “He kissed her, and she didn’t want that,” said Wolfson, who appeared on the stand quite nervous, breaking down in tears at one point. While initially they were unsure about what to do, the two took the alleged victim to Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital, where she received rape counseling and medical attention.
Sanger, in his opening statements and in statements throughout the first two days, has suggested that it wasn’t Frimpong who raped the alleged victim. “There’s no question that she met Eric Frimpong, and that they met on the bluff,” Sanger said. “The question is who actually raped her.” If he has any ideas about who might have been the culprit in the assault, his questioning hasn’t revealed that theory yet.
The jury is composed of four men and nine women-12 jurors and one alternate. Seated at the prosecutor’s table with Barron was Sheriff’s Detective Daniel Kies, one of the lead investigators in the case and the detective who interviewed the alleged rape victim. Frimpong-who turns 22 on December 14-appeared calm, very rarely conferred with Sanger, and remained seated during the morning and afternoon recesses called by Santa Barbara Superior Court Judge Brian Hill. It is not known whether Frimpong will take the stand. Both Barron and Sanger declined comment until after the conclusion of the trial. Barron expected the alleged rape victim would take the stand sometime this week, most likely Friday.