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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Alleged Victim Testifies In CA Sexual Assault Trial

Here's the Appeal-Democrat story:

Testimony begins in trial of ex-Marysville tow company boss

An 18-year-old woman took the stand Thursday in Yuba County Superior Court and said her boss, former Marysville towing company manager Joseph Patrick Griesa, sexually abused her when she was 16.

It was the first day of testimony in the jury trial for Griesa, who is facing 13 felony charges, most involving abuse of teenage girls.

The woman, who is not being named by the Appeal-Democrat, said Griesa offered her a job as a dispatcher in September 2006, shortly after she graduated early from high school. Griesa had been her brother's probation officer and was a longtime family friend, she said.

At the company Christmas party that year, Griesa told her she looked attractive "in a weird way," she said.

After the party, Griesa began sending her text messages at least once a day, sometimes at 2 a.m., calling her "baby" or "sweetie," she said.

"It weirded me out," she said.

Then, about a week after the party, Griesa called her into his office when she was not scheduled to work and told her to sit down. He started playing a pornographic video on his office TV, she said.

When she tried to leave, Griesa grabbed her by her long hair and told her to sit down, she said.

"I didn't say anything. I didn't know what to do," she said.

Griesa is charged with striking the girl and masturbating in front of her while the video played.

The woman said she didn't mention anything to her mother or sisters.

"If that happened to my sister, I wouldn't want to know about it," she said.

Similar incidents happened regularly before she finally left Mitchell's Towing in November 2007, the woman testified earlier before the grand jury that indicted Griesa.

Griesa paid her wages in cash "under the table" or gave her checks made out to an older sister who also worked for the company. The sister then signed the checks over to her, she said.

Griesa is also charged with failing to pay workers compensation taxes for the teenage girls who worked for him.

Griesa's attorney, Charles Smith, told jurors in his opening statement that the woman was, at age 16, "mature beyond her years," telling Griesa she was nearly 18 when she wasn't. She exchanged text messages of a sexual nature with Griesa and other adults, including Mitchell's Towing drivers, Smith said.

Testimony will show the girl gave authorities a photo of a bruise around her eye, saying Griesa inflicted it when it was actually her father, Smith said.

Text messages and cell phone records will show that Griesa was elsewhere at times the woman said abuse was happening at work, he said.

Smith said the woman added allegations about Griesa after filing a civil lawsuit against him, including an accusation that he gave her a date rape drug before sexually assaulting her.

"The story now becomes one of rape," Smith said. "The worse the claims are, the more money might be recovered. This case is about money."

Marysville Police Department Detective Randall Elliott said the girl and her family first contacted him about the abuse in November 2007. The girl was "very carefree in her attitude" and gave information "freely and rapidly," he said.

The behavior was not typical of sexual assault victims but was not uncommon, Elliott testified.

The girl never mentioned being drugged or raped, but victims don't always reveal everything at first, Elliott said.

Later that month, he received a call from Griesa's attorney, David Vasquez, who said a "civil compromise" was pending between Griesa and the girl. At that point, Elliott said, he thought the girl had decided not to seek criminal charges against Griesa.

"It seemed on the up and up to me," Elliott said.

But Police Chief Wallace Fullerton advised him that a civil compromise might not be legal and the case was submitted to the Yuba County District Attorney's Office, he said.

Asked by Deputy District Attorney John Vacek if Fullerton's stance was one of, "You can't buy your way out of sexual assault," Elliott agreed.

Vasquez and attorney Jesse Santana, who briefly represented the girl, are charged in a separate case with trying to bribe the girl and obstruct justice.

Elliott said Santana called him Dec. 11, 2007, and told him the girl would not talk to police or would not testify if subpoenaed.

The woman is expected to resume her testimony today.

Contact Appeal-Democrat reporter Rob Young at 749-4710 or at

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