A Bellingham man was grilled under intense cross-examination Thursday in a trial where he’s accused of sexual assaults on four women.
Jamison Scott Rogayan, 32, testified on the witness stand that two women made up stories about sexual assaults, while two others seemed to consent to touching.
A deputy prosecutor, Evan Jones, began his cross-examination by telling Rogayan not to use profanity in court. Rogayan had used the F-word a few times a day earlier, when he described his memories of the nights in question.
“This is not a bar. It’s a court of law,” Jones said sternly. The prosecutor launched into a rapid-fire interrogation of the defendant, asking Rogayan if he’d spent a lot of time thinking about how he would testify, in response to the allegations.
“My life is on the line,” Rogayan said. “I had time to recollect everything I could that happened those nights, because I knew in my mind that the things I was being told happened didn’t — ”
“Excuse me, Mr. Rogayan, but my question to you is whether you’ve had time to think of what the witnesses had to say,” Jones said.
“No,” he answered.
“You haven’t had time to think about what they were going to say in court?”
“I read what they said in their statements,” he replied.
Rogayan has spent the last 1½ years behind bars. On the stand his chin quivered as he fought tears, his head bobbled slightly, and in a short recess, he turned and bawled against a wall. Rogayan seemed shaken when he was asked about his old life working at restaurants, co-owning Cosmos Bistro, and going to bars. Jones asked him about his favorite bar, Cap Hansen’s. Rogayan said it was like a living room outside his living room, a place where “everybody knows your name.”
“You’re making reference to a sitcom?” Jones asked. “In light of what you’re hearing being leveled against you, you’re making reference to a sitcom, ‘Cheers?’ ”
Three accusers say they met Rogayan at the bar, or bumped into him there, before he invited them to his apartment. Rogayan didn’t realize two of those women were blacked out, he testified.
“You’d buy the drunkest woman in the room drinks, wouldn’t you?” Jones asked.
Rogayan said, “No.”
Two bartenders from Cap’s were later called as rebuttal witnesses. Shandra Larrieux testified once she caught him slipping shots into a drink, and that sometimes she saw him buy drinks for women who had been cut off from alcohol. Another bar worker, Ozzie Mora, testified Rogayan would “gravitate” toward women who were drunk.
“He had a habit of doing that,” he said.
Jones noted that Rogayan, as someone who worked in the restaurant industry, had training in recognizing how impaired people are. Rogayan acknowledges that he bought drinks for women, invited them to his apartment, and in some cases used drugs with them.
One of the women, G., had testified she blacked out at the bar after two gin and tonics, one of which Rogayan had bought for her while she used the bathroom. Rogayan corroborated most of her story – “all the way up until the point,” he said, “that she says she doesn’t remember anything, and that all of a sudden she wakes up with my hands in her pants, because that did not happen.”
“So that’s the piece that you deny?” Jones asked.
“Yes, I deny that,” he said. “What I remember isn’t what they say happened.”
Rogayan recalled making out with G. on his bed, passing out, and waking up with his arm draped over her abdomen. His hand was “kind of in the top of her waistband of her pants,” he said under questioning from his defense attorney.
“Good morning, beautiful,” he recalled telling G. “It’s lovely waking up next to you.”
She didn’t respond, except to say she had to go, Rogayan said. Outside his apartment, he saw her break into a run. She testified she ran all the way home.
The way she remembers it, she awakened to Rogayan forcibly touching her sexually, until she pried his hand away. Another woman testified to regaining consciousness to Rogayan sexually touching her, too. That woman had taken Molly, a form of the drug Ecstasy, mixed with alcohol. Two other accusers say he sexually assaulted them while they were conscious but inebriated – by alcohol, cocaine, marijuana or some mix – in his apartment.
A total of 10 women have accused Rogayan of sexual assaults. All but one of them came forward in late 2015, when they saw each other’s stories on Facebook. Charges weren’t brought in almost half of those cases because the statute of limitations had expired. And one count of rape was dismissed this week, when Superior Court Judge Charles Snyder found the woman had, in her words, “passively accepted.”
Toward the end of Rogayan’s time on the stand, Jones asked him if he was a victim.
“I think we all – we all have gone through something painful,” Rogayan said.
“Do you think you’re a victim in this courtroom?” Jones asked.
“I think we’ve all been hurt by this,” Rogayan said. “And I just want peace, Mr. Jones. I just want peace.”
All witness testimony wrapped up Thursday, the seventh day of trial. Closing arguments are scheduled for Monday, when the case will go to a jury of seven women and five men.