Rape accused in Irish student case claimed it was ‘no big deal’
Prosecution opens case in New York against former Goldman Sachs executive Jason Lee
Former New York City investment banker Jason Lee walks with his wife Alicia into Suffolk County Court in Riverhead, New York, on Wednesday. Photograph: Frank Eltman/AP.
A banker accused of raping an Irish student at a beach house in the Hamptons outside New York tried to send away a police woman on the night by telling her there was “no big deal”, a US court has heard.
The prosecution opened the case against former Goldman Sachs executive Jason Lee (38) ,who has been charged with raping and assaulting the 20-year-old woman at an early-hours summer party in the Hamptons, a holiday destination popular with New Yorkers, on August 20th, 2013.
He has pleaded not guilty and claims they had consensual sex after meeting at a nearby nightclub and returning with friends to his rented house for a party.
State prosecutor Kerriann Kelly told New York State Supreme Court Justice Barbara Kahn in the non-jury trial the Irish woman had that night encountered “a man who wanted one thing and one thing only - and that was sex and he used her to get it”.
Mr Lee and the student came “from such different worlds that they could have been from different planets”, Ms Kelly told Suffolk County Criminal Court in Riverhead, a town 80 miles east of New York City.
He was a married man who left his wife in the city to celebrate his 37th birthday, she said.
She was a 20-year-old college student on a J-1 visa preparing to go back to Ireland and who was visiting her brother who was working for the summer in nearby Montauk.
Ms Kelly said Mr Lee brought the woman, her female friend and her brother back with one of his friends, Rene Duncan, to his East Hampton house on Long Island after drinking and dancing at the Georgica nightclub.
She said it was “a long, hot night”, and the two Irish girls removed clothing to swim in their underwear in the pool at Mr Lee’s house.
The banker “stripped down to nothing”, she said, and told the girls: “I skinny-dip - that’s what I do.”
The girls felt uncomfortable, she said, and they later changed and continued drinking in the kitchen.
When the student went to a downstairs bathroom to put on the dress she had been wearing, she was followed in by a naked Lee. According to Ms Kelly, she said to him: “‘What do you think you are doing’, or words to that effect.”
Mr Lee pushed the door in so hard that the student left her fingerprints on the door. “She simply wasn’t strong enough,” she said.
The student fell back and hurt her hip, she said: “He had her exactly where he wanted her - on the floor, on her back.”
The woman tried to fight him off but could not, she added.
The banker, Ms Kelly alleged, screamed twice at her to “shut the fuck up” and raped her, putting his hand over her mouth so hard that she was unable to bite him.
“He had no regard for the 20-year-old Irish girl that was visiting,” said the prosecuting attorney.
He continued his “disgusting attack” until she was able to knee him in the genitals.
The assault left her disgusted and violated, she said; she was “hysterical and crying” and “could barely speak” or “say what was wrong with her”.
Mr Duncan called police on 911 to make a complaint about the alleged taking of his SUV truck by a friend of the Irish student’s brother to drop two local men home. He said the vehicle had been stolen.
The court heard a recording of the 911 call by Mr Duncan.
The brother came on the phone to tell the police officer: “I have got another situation I need to sort out, a more important situation than a truck.”
When East Hampton police officer Sarah Mortensen arrived at the house, Mr Lee leaned his elbows on the car window, saying: “We’re good; you can go, we got this under control; the car is not an issue.”
He was “trying to get rid of the police”, Ms Kelly said, telling her that there “no big deal”.
The student’s brother stressed to the policewoman that there was “a bigger issue” to discuss, Ms Kelly told the court.
The Irish student told the policewoman in the police car she had been raped. While they were speaking, Mr Lee disappeared and was “not seen again for over two hours”.
After a search of the house, he was later found “curled up in a foetal position” hiding in the back seat of his Range Rover in the driveway.
When asked by the police what he was doing in there, he told a police officer: “I am embarrassed. I am drunk. I fell asleep.”
While hiding, Mr Lee had called a cab company twice and contacted online taxi service Uber multiple times as he was “trying to get out of there”, said Ms Kelly.
During an hour-long examination, a nurse with experience in treating sexual assaults later found an injury to the student’s vaginal area, bruises and a long scratch almost the length of her leg, she said.
These injuries with “consistent” with her allegation that she had been raped by Mr Lee, said the prosecutor.
Her dress and underwear did not turn up until seven months later when they were provided by an investigator working for Mr Lee.
There was “no explanation for where it had been”, she said.
In his opening statement, Andrew Lankler, one of Mr Lee’s defence lawyers, described the case as “the product of a rushed investigation”.
There were “critical inconsistencies” in statements provided by the Irish student, witnesses and even police, he said.
Mr Lee and the Irish woman clearly had physical contact with each other that night - “a critical photograph” had been taken of them at the nightclub, he said.
“It was entirely consistent with the circumstances under which consensual sex occurs, perhaps regrettable consensual sex,” he said.
Mr Lankler said the student’s friend and brother would testify that they did not hear a sound from the downstairs bathroom, even though the prosecution alleges Mr Lee and the student both screamed.
A bruise on her hip would be shown to be a pre-existing injury, he said, and despite the prosecution’s claim Mr Lee and the student had “struggled mightily” in the bathroom, Mr Lee didn’t have “a scratch on him”.
“The last thing he had on his mind was that he was going to be arrested for rape,” Mr Lankler told the judge.
Ms Mortensen, the first police officer on the scene, testified that she arrived at the house to find Mr Duncan “highly intoxicated, slurring his words” and complaining about his missing car.
She said Mr Lee appeared at the window on the other side of her police car saying that there was no problem and that she could go, but the Irish student’s brother told the officer that his sister was really upset and asked the officer to figure out what was going on.
The officer proceeded to talk to the Irish woman alone in the police car with the windows up.
“She was upset, she couldn’t sit still, she was fidgeting,” Ms Mortensen said. She told the court that the Irish student told her that “the Chinese man had raped her.”
When she looked up after speaking with the Irish student, the Asian man who had spoken to her earlier at the car - whom she identified in court as Mr Lee - was no longer there.
The trial continues.