Testimony in the trial of former UCSB soccer player Eric Frimpong is beginning to reveal what would seem to be a time lapse in between when Frimpong was last seen and when his accuser first made contact with friends about needing help. According to the 17-year-old sister of one of Frimpong’s roommates who was spending the night in her brother’s room, his girlfriend came to Frimpong’s house wondering where he was at 1:11 a.m., the girl testified on Wednesday, the third day of the trial in Santa Barbara Superior Court. Some of his roommates testified seeing him leave with the alleged rape victim around 12:30 a.m., while one of that woman’s friends testified that she received a call from the alleged rape victim around 1:25 or 1:30 a.m. The timing of such comings and goings throughout the Isla Vista party scene on the night of February 16 may prove crucial in the trial, which has Frimpong facing charges of misdemeanor sexual assault and felony rape.
The sister of the UCSB student accusing Frimpong of rape took the stand on day three of Frimpong’s trial in Santa Barbara Superior Court Wednesday. Elizabeth-her last name is being withheld to protect the identity of her sister-a 25-year-old office manager at a Bay Area company, drove down February 16, arriving at the Francisco Torres residence halls, where her sister lived, around 7 p.m. that night. It was her first visit to UCSB since her sister, then a freshman, had moved in. They stayed in the room until 8:30 p.m., when they went out to a party. She recalled her sister and two of her friends drinking, but she herself didn’t have any alcohol. After arriving at the party, her sister and she each had beer, but she said he sister wasn’t intoxicated. “She handles it well, especially for her size,” Elizabeth said.
Frimpong’s defense attorney Bob Sanger once again brought up Benjamin Randall, who, according to witness testimony was “intimate” with the alleged victim, at least for a time. Sanger has questioned each of the witnesses who were at the party, asking about Randall’s relationship with the alleged victim. As have testified all witnesses on this matter, Elizabeth said nothing appeared abnormal or strained between the two. Elizabeth left the party early, but received a call from her sister around 11:10 p.m. Her sister wanted to talk on the phone while she was walking to a party alone. Two hours later, sleeping on a pullout couch at a friend’s house in Carpinteria, she was awoken by a phone call from her dad, who told her that her sister had been raped.
As two friends of the alleged victim testified Tuesday, the alleged victim was hesitant to go to the hospital. Elizabeth explained that she was worried she would get in trouble because she was only 18-years-old and had been drinking. As her two friends did, Elizabeth described her sister as crying “hysterically.”
The group convinced the alleged victim to go to the hospital, Elizabeth testified, and the alleged victim told her sister she had met a 21-year-old African-American man named Eric whom she did not know previously. He invited her to the beach where “he got really aggressive” Elizabeth said, recalling that her sister said he eventually knocked her down and raped her.
On Wednesday, Elizabeth was followed by another sister-a 17-year-old woman who had been visiting her brother, Frimpong’s roommate, on the night in question. This witness testified that she had seen Frimpong playing beer pong earlier in the morning with a girl, whom she described as “probably Asian,” with a reddish-orange shirt and dark hair-a description which would seem to match that of the alleged rape victim. The witness recalled speaking with her brother to Frimpong for a moment and didn’t speak to the girl. Then the witness headed to bed. She woke up, however, at exactly 1:11 a.m., she testified, when she overheard her brother talking to Frimpong’s girlfriend, who had come into the house looking for her man. The witness described Frimpong’s girlfriend as emotional, and said the girlfriend said she Frimpong’s roommates didn’t like her because she was “taking Eric away from them.”
The afternoon session saw testimony from three of Frimpong’s former roommates. Jeffery Ball, a recent graduate of UCSB, testified that on the evening of February 16, Frimpong and the alleged victim came into the house where he introduced her to the housemates. He said Frimpong invited the housemates to play beer pong, but the offer was declined, so Frimpong and the girl played against each other. After giving the court a detailed explanation of the rules and etiquette of beer pong, Ball said he was unsure how much beer the two consumed as he and the other housemates where watching a movie and did not pay close attention to the game. The prosecutor asked if either Frimpong or the girl showed signs of intoxication, to which Ball said they did not appear to be intoxicated at all. Ball claimed that Frimpong and his friend began to play at around 11:30 p.m. but he did not see them leave. Ball said did not see Frimpong again till late the next morning.
The next witness, William Lundt, contradicted Ball’s testimony by saying that the girl did not enter the house and was not introduced to him. According to Lundt, Frimpong then grabbed a few beers and he and the alleged victim played beer pong out on the patio alone. Like Ball, Lundt said the two did not appear to be intoxicated and that some time after midnight they left through a side gate next to the house.
The next testimony was from Brandon Hale, the brother of the young woman who was visited that weekend and staying at Frimpong’s house. Hale appeared in the form of a DVD interview recorded this summer. Hale, who is now studying abroad in Costa Rica, testified that he saw Frimpong before midnight on the patio with the girl where he spent some time with them before going to bed upstairs. He did not see the couple playing beer pong but they were standing near the table when Hale, his sister, and her friend arrived at the house. Like the other housemates Hale testified that neither Frimpong nor the girl seemed intoxicated. At the time, Hale shared a room with Frimpong that overlooked the beach. The prosecutor asked Hale whether he heard anything from the beach while he was in the room to which Hale responded he rarely heard any noise from the beach unless it was very loud. Hale said was awoken at about 2 a.m. when Frimpong’s girlfriend, Yesenia Prieto, entered the room looking for Frimpong. Hale did not see Frimpong until several days later and, at the advice of an attorney, Hale refused to allow Sheriff’s deputies to photograph the premises following Frimpong’s arrest.
After the testimonies of Frimpong’s housemates the prosecution called to the stand Carly Nagel, a high school friend of the alleged victim. The prosecution presented a telephone bill that showed Nagel received a call from the alleged victim at 1:15 a.m. on February 17. Nagel said at first she could not determine who was calling her because the number was unknown to her and the caller was crying uncontrollably. After a few moments the caller began telling Nagel she had been raped.
Throughout the testimony in the afternoon, Frimpong exhibited few reactions to the testimony. However when the prosecution called the alleged victims father to the stand Frimpong’s attention suddenly became keenly focused on the proceeding. The man said he and his were asleep at their home in northern California when the phone rang at 1:24 a.m. His wife answered but the caller wanted to speak with him. Only after hearing a “quivering” sobbing voice did the man realize it was his daughter calling. He calmly related how his daughter explained the series of events that led up to her alleged attack. According to the alleged victim’s father his daughter told him she had been drinking, had met a person on the street and went to a small get together, she then went for a walk on the beach with this person where she was attacked. She claimed to have been choked or strangled and at this point he called the alleged victim’s sister to pick up the alleged victim and take her to a hospital.
The last two witnesses were not cross examined by the defense and the trial will resume on Friday morning.