While the rest of the UCSB men’s soccer team was fted by President Bush in a June 18 White House ceremony honoring its undefeated championship season, star player Eric Frimpong was sitting in Santa Barbara County Superior Court facing rape charges. During a preliminary hearing, Deputy District Attorney Mary Barron called two sheriff’s investigators to the stand to describe their interviews with Frimpong’s accusers. She also quizzed Frimpong’s girlfriend and other friends who had seen him on the night of the alleged rape.
To the extent that the prosecutor sought to establish bias on the part of Frimpong’s friends, her point was made. “Is there any way I can just say something briefly about Eric Frimpong’s character?” asked Nick Diebolt, one of the witnesses, at the conclusion of his testimony. “No,” answered Judge Brian Hill, but Diebolt’s request reflected the support Frimpong enjoyed from witnesses who described him as a serious student and good friend.
A native of Ghana majoring in math and economics, the 21-year-old stands accused by two female UCSB students-one claiming Frimpong knocked her down, punched her in the face, held her by the neck, and raped her shortly after midnight on February 17 on the beach outside the Del Playa Drive apartment he shares with seven other roommates. Frimpong was arrested and released on bail the day after the alleged attack. A second woman later called the sheriff’s department and claimed Frimpong had grabbed her butt and tackled her a month earlier. Frimpong has pleaded not guilty to both crimes and denied any sexual activity whatsoever with the woman accusing him of rape.
On Monday, four of Frimpong’s associates testified to seeing Frimpong around midnight on the night of the alleged attack. They said that he and the accuser dropped by the apartment for a quick game of beer-pong, a popular Isla Vista pastime, leaving about 20 minutes after they arrived. Frimpong’s girlfriend, Yesenia Prieto, testified that Frimpong came to her apartment at about 3:30 a.m., shortly after she too had returned from a night of party-hopping in the college town. He seemed dazed and said he felt drugged.
Despite protests by Frimpong’s attorney, Robert Sanger, the accusers were referred to during the preliminary hearing as Jane Doe One and Jane Doe Two. According to the account given by Detective Daniel Joseph Kies, who interviewed Doe One, the alleged rape victim, she and Frimpong met for the first time on the night of the alleged incident as she was walking along Del Playa at 11:30 p.m. Her boyfriend, who was walking in the opposite direction, spotted them and called her cell phone. Doe One responded that she was walking with her friend Eric.
Doe One then went with Frimpong to his apartment, Kies’s account continued, just as the roommates had described in earlier testimony. The woman said Frimpong then suggested they go to the beach, where he allegedly raped her. At 1:15 a.m., a student encountered her on Del Playa crying and covered with sand. For the rest of that morning, the woman received rape counseling and medical attention. Her face and neck were bruised, and her blood alcohol level showed her to be very drunk.
Detective Michael John Scherbarth testified as to Jane Doe Two’s account. He said Doe Two contacted him following Frimpong’s arrest. Doe Two, a runner, claimed she had met Frimpong on Del Playa shortly before 2 a.m. a few weeks previously and went to the beach, where they performed windsprints until Frimpong tackled her. She ran away, leaving behind her purse. Doe Two later met Frimpong at a sandwich shop to retrieve her purse.
The parents of one of Frimpong’s teammates are bearing most of the defense costs. The campus-based Eric Frimpong Legal Defense Fund support group reportedly raised about $25,000 before the district attorney objected that its Web site intimidated potential witnesses.
The preliminary hearing is the prosecution’s chance to show that there is sufficient evidence to proceed to trial. It will continue July 9, when Barron is scheduled to present the prosecution’s much-disputed DNA evidence. In response to the DA’s assertion that it has a DNA match linking Frimpong to the rape, Sanger told reporters that Frimpong’s DNA was not found inside Doe One but that another, unspecified man’s was. However, sources close to the prosecution have said the alleged victim’s DNA was found on Frimpong, who upon his arrest consented to having samples taken from his genitals, abdomen, mouth, and fingers.