Crime

Seventh accuser says Bellingham bistro owner sexually assaulted her

Jamison Scott Rogayan, appears in Whatcom County Superior Court, at the Whatcom County Jail in Bellingham, Monday, Sept. 28, 2015.
Jamison Scott Rogayan, appears in Whatcom County Superior Court, at the Whatcom County Jail in Bellingham, Monday, Sept. 28, 2015. The Bellingham Herald

A seventh accuser has come forward saying she was a victim of unwanted sexual contact by the co-owner of a Bellingham bistro.

Jamison Scott Rogayan, 31, of Bellingham pleaded not guilty to charges of indecent liberties, unlawful imprisonment, and three counts of rape in the second degree at his arraignment Friday morning, Oct. 9, in Whatcom County Superior Court.

Prosecutors charged Rogayan with sexually assaulting four women in the past four years. Three other women came forward to make similar accusations, but those alleged incidents were reported after the statute of limitations — three years, in rape cases — had expired.

Earlier this year, Rogayan opened Cosmos Bistro with co-owner Cinnamon Berg, a chef and former co-worker at Avenue Bread. She’s now trying to legally sever business ties with him.

On social media sites Facebook and reddit.com this fall, rumors claimed Rogayan raped or tried to rape several women in Bellingham. Those victims started seeing their own stories echoed by others, police said, leading them to finally come forward.

Their stories are spelled out in charging papers.

One woman, 27, told police she’d gone to Rogayan’s apartment to change into a costume for a party in spring 2011. The party host told Rogayan to leave, so the woman went with Rogayan to his home to pick up her things. Rogayan wouldn’t let her leave, she reported. According to the charges, he threw her down on a bed and raped her. She told police the abuse lasted for hours until she could escape.

A second woman, 24, said Rogayan bought her drinks at a downtown bar, Cap Hansen’s, in fall 2013, and invited her to smoke marijuana. Then, at his apartment, she said, he offered cocaine and MDMA, also known as the party drug Ecstasy. She took the cocaine and Rogayan tried to remove her clothes, according to the charges. She tried to leave, but he blocked the door, grabbed her arms, and dragged her to his futon about five times as he tried to kiss her, the charges allege. Rogayan eventually needed to use the bathroom, and the woman ran out the door.

A third woman, 39, reported she’d gone to Cap Hansen’s in February 2014 after taking MDMA tablets and drinking four beers. She awoke around 4 a.m., naked, in a stranger’s apartment, being sexually touched by a man she didn’t know, according to charging papers. She groggily put on her clothes and left.

Over the next few days she tried to figure out the man’s identity. Someone gave her Rogayan’s name and she found him on Facebook. She messaged him, calling herself “the blacked out girl from Friday,” the charges say. She asked him if they’d had sex. He told her he had “wandering hands,” but that they didn’t have sex, according to the charges.

That woman came forward on Sept. 16, and gave police copies of the messages. The charges state that the woman “has no memory of ever meeting Rogayan that night and was so inebriated that she would not be able to consent to sexual intercourse.”

Rogayan was arrested Sept. 25.

About a week later, another woman — a seventh alleged victim — came forward to police. She reported Rogayan bought her two or three gin and tonics at Cap Hansen’s, and from then on the night was a blur. Her next clear memory, the charges say, was waking up around 5 a.m. to find her shirt pulled down, her bra off, and Rogayan touching her. She got up to leave, and on the way from the apartment he tried to kiss and grope her, according to the charges. She told investigators she ran nine blocks to her home. She never confronted Rogayan or contacted police, she reported, because she blamed herself for what happened.

Rogayan’s business partner, Berg, said as the accusations mounted in September, she banned him from the restaurant. Since then she has been working to gain sole control of the business.

Superior Court Judge Raquel Montoya-Lewis set bail at $500,000 last month.

Rogayan remains in jail. On Friday, his private defense attorney, Alexander Ransom, said the case remains under investigation and declined to comment further.

Bellingham police have encouraged any other victims to come forward, even if the statute of limitations has passed. To make a police report, call 360-778-8800. After hours, dial 9-1-1.

Also, victims of sexual assault can get help from Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Services by calling 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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