Crime

Jury can’t reach verdict in Bellingham bistro owner’s serial rape case

Judge declares mistrial in Jamison Rogayan serial rape case

Whatcom County Superior Court Judge Charles Snyder declares a mistrial after four days of jury deliberation in Jamison Rogayan's serial rape trial on Friday, Feb. 10, in Bellingham.
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Whatcom County Superior Court Judge Charles Snyder declares a mistrial after four days of jury deliberation in Jamison Rogayan's serial rape trial on Friday, Feb. 10, in Bellingham.

A Superior Court judge declared a mistrial in a serial rape case Friday, as a jury could not reach a verdict after four women testified they were sexually assaulted by Jamison Scott Rogayan.

Over a three-week trial, the women testified they were drunk, high, or both, when Rogayan made unwanted sexual advances at his apartment on Chestnut Street.

Rogayan, 32, co-owned Cosmos Bistro, a restaurant on the first floor of the Herald Building, where he was known to customers for his upbeat personality.

On the witness stand he gave his side of the story:

▪  One of the encounters didn’t turn sexual.

▪  One didn’t happen the way a woman said it happened.

▪  Two other women seemed to consent.

A fifth accuser’s case was dismissed by Judge Charles Snyder mid-trial, when a woman testified Rogayan started having sex with her after she awoke in his bed.

A total of 10 women reported sexual assaults by Rogayan, but the statute of limitations had expired in four cases, and one woman did not want to press charges.

The jury members deliberated for four days before filing into the courtroom around 4:20 p.m. Friday, with solemn and deflated expressions, to tell the judge they could not reach a verdict on any of the remaining charges: three counts of second-degree rape, one count of indecent liberties, and one count of unlawful imprisonment.

Prosecutors plan to bring the case to trial again, but only if the women are willing to take the witness stand a second time, said Eric Richey, the chief criminal deputy prosecutor.

“This is a strong case,” Richey said. “We believe our victims.”

Most of the jurors were in favor of convicting, Richey added, though the vote tally differed on different counts.

A tentative retrial date is scheduled for March 20. In the meantime Rogayan remains in jail, unable to post $500,000 bond.

In his closing argument, the prosecutor argued that the women had no motive to lie when they told their stories to a courtroom full of strangers.

The defense attorney, Alexander Ransom, countered that the women did have a motive: to support each other. After the allegations of rape surfaced on social media in September 2015, the women – who did not know each other beforehand – discussed their encounters with Rogayan on a secret Facebook page.

The defense saw that as evidence of witness collusion. The women testified that it was a safe place for them to share their experiences and get support. Both sides agree it was hearing the other stories that compelled the women to come forward to police.

Ransom declined to talk with a reporter Friday.

Caleb Hutton: 360-715-2276, @bhamcaleb

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