Crime

Bellingham bistro co-owner appears in court on rape charges

Video: Rape suspect Jamison Scott Rogayan appears in court

Jamison Scott Rogayan appears in Whatcom County Superior Court, at the Whatcom County Jail in Bellingham, Monday, Sept. 28, 2015, after six women accused him of sex crimes dating from 2006 to 2014.
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Jamison Scott Rogayan appears in Whatcom County Superior Court, at the Whatcom County Jail in Bellingham, Monday, Sept. 28, 2015, after six women accused him of sex crimes dating from 2006 to 2014.

A judge set bail at $500,000 for a Bellingham bistro co-owner accused of raping two women and abusing others.

Jamison Scott Rogayan — known for his cheerful, chipper attitude as a server at Cosmos Bistro — made a stoic first appearance in court Monday, Sept. 28, answering a Superior Court commissioner’s questions in a quiet monotone.

Rogayan, 31, co-founded the bistro this year in downtown Bellingham.

He was banned from the restaurant by co-owner Cinnamon Berg earlier this month, as he became the target of a wave of posts on social media sites — Facebook and reddit.com — accusing him of sexually assaulting women over the past decade.

Those posts, police said, compelled several women to finally come forward as they noticed stories that mirrored their own. According to police, Rogayan would invite the women to his home, offer drugs and/or alcohol, and make sexual advances.

Two of the encounters, in 2011 and 2014, ended in rape, said Bellingham Police Sgt. Claudia Murphy. A third woman reported Rogayan tried to kiss her once in 2013, and when she tried to stop him, he grabbed her, blocked the door and told her she couldn’t leave. Those women range in age from mid-20s to early 40s.

Three other women came forward to make similar sex abuse reports, but for them Washington’s statute of limitations — three years in rape cases — has passed. The oldest incident was in 2006, police said.

Berg has been working to legally sever Rogayan’s ties to the business. She said she wasn’t aware of the accusations until the recent social media posts.

Rogayan was arrested Friday, Sept. 25.

Over the weekend bail was set at $500,000 by Superior Court Judge Raquel Montoya-Lewis.

Formal charges are expected to be filed this week by the county prosecutor’s office. Rogayan faces charges of two counts of rape in the second degree and unlawful imprisonment.

Rogayan plans to hire a private attorney. If he posts bond, he won’t be allowed to consume intoxicants or to contact his accusers.

An arraignment is scheduled for the morning of Oct. 9.

Police hope if there are more victims that they will make a police report, even if the statute of limitations has passed.

To make a report, call Bellingham police at 360-778-8800. After hours, call 911.

Also, victims of sex crimes can call Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Services’ 24-hour hotline at 360-715-1563 or 877-715-1563.

Reach Caleb Hutton at 360-715-2276 or caleb.hutton@bellinghamherald.com. Follow him on Twitter at @bhamcaleb.

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