At about 3 a.m. on October 17, 2004, a 17-year-old woman named Samantha, burst into a grocery store in Clinton, Iowa, crying and with her hair and clothes disheveled. She used the phone to call a friend and then, at the urging of a store employee, called police.
Police had difficulty eliciting information from Samantha, but eventually she said she had been raped by 45-year-old David DeSimone while she was attending a party on the night of October 16th.
Samantha was taken to a hospital where a rape kit was prepared. Samantha told a nurse that she had six or seven glasses of beer and that DeSimone forced her to perform oral and vaginal intercourse. She said she had vomited during the attack on DeSimone’s bed, on the bedroom floor and on her hair.
Police obtained a search warrant for DeSimone’s residence and collected bedding and sheets as well as a blanket they found in the basement next to a washer and dryer.
Tests performed on the bedding were negative for semen, blood and vomit. The rape kit was also negative for any of DeSimone’s body fluids, and no semen was detected.
Hospital personnel found no physical evidence that Samantha had been assaulted and there was no vomit on her or her clothes. There was no evidence of injury to her genitals.
Nonetheless, DeSimone was arrested in June 2005 and charged with third-degree sexual assault.
DeSimone went on trial in Clinton County Circuit Court in September 2005. Samantha testified that there was a party for DeSimone’s 18-year-old cousin. The teenagers gave DeSimone money and he bought a keg of beer for the party.
Samantha testified that although her memory was spotty, she recalled placing her head down on the kitchen table while the party was going on. Her next memory was sitting naked in DeSimone’s bed. She testified that she was confused and did not know why her clothes were off. She said her tampon had been removed and she saw DeSimone standing near the bedroom light switch with a blanket around him. Samantha testified that DeSimone then turned off the light and “came over and got on top of me.”
Samantha told the jury she tried to push him off and screamed loudly for about five minutes. She testified that DeSimone grabbed her by the throat and forced her to engage in vaginal intercourse. She testified that she became sick to her stomach and vomited on DeSimone’s bed, sheets, and in her hair. After vomiting, she said DeSimone forced her to have oral sex and then, for a second time, vaginal intercourse. She also testified that DeSimone told her during intercourse that he was not going to ejaculate so he would not leave any evidence.
Samantha testified that after DeSimone finished, she dressed and fled the house. She said that as she ran across the street she was almost struck by a passing car.
Joseph Baker, who attended the party, said he went into DeSimone’s bedroom to find his coat after the party had ended. He saw Samantha sleeping in DeSimone’s bed. Baker testified that he thought he was too drunk to drive, so he sat down on the couch in the living room adjacent to DeSimone’s bedroom. He fell asleep with the television on and slept until around 6 a.m. He said he did not hear any screaming that night.
Jeffery Hereid, the grocery store attendant, confirmed that Samantha entered the store, crying, early on the morning of October 17 with her clothes disheveled and her hair messed up. He said she called a friend and then 911. The 911 call was made at 3:06 a.m.
Also called as a prosecution witness was an 18-year-old woman named Nicole who said she had befriended Samantha about two months before the trial—in July 2005—more than six months after the alleged rape. Nicole testified that one evening, she and Samantha were driving down the street past DeSimone’s residence and Samantha told her about the sexual assault.
Nicole said hearing Samantha’s account triggered a memory of driving down the street after she got off work at Burger King and almost hitting a young woman who ran recklessly across the street at that location and tried to flag her down.
She said she had swerved around her and did not stop because she was scared. Nicole said she didn’t call the police because she wasn’t sure what was going on.
Twice during her testimony, she said that the young woman ran across the street on October 13, not October 17, when Samantha reported being attacked.
The defense attacked Samantha’s credibility and suggested that she was friendly with DeSimone’s niece and had a motive to falsely accuse DeSimone of rape. The niece, as well as DeSimone’s step-daughter, had previously alleged he had sexually molested them in separate incidents. DeSimone was charged in both cases, but was acquitted in separate trials.
On September 15, 2005, DeSimone was convicted of third-degree sexual assault. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
DeSimone’s conviction was upheld on appeal. While the appeal was still pending, DeSimone wrote a letter to Burger King to get Nicole’s timesheet records from the morning of October 17, 2004.
Burger King officials sent him a copy of Nicole’s timecard showing she left work at 3:30 a.m., nearly a half hour after Samantha had called 911, establishing that Nicole could not have seen Samantha cross the street after leaving DeSimone’s house.
In a letter to DeSimone, Burger King said that the timecard had been provided to the prosecution prior to DeSimone’s trial. After DeSimone’s appeal was denied, he filed an application for post-conviction relief, but the Iowa Court of Appeals rejected it.
DeSimone appealed that decision and, in September 2011, the Iowa Supreme Court reversed DeSimone’s conviction and ordered a new trial. The court found that the state received the timecard one week prior to trial and failed to disclose it to DeSimone’s trial lawyer. The court noted that the entire case against DeSimone was Samantha’s testimony and that the physical evidence contradicted her. The timecard “destroys the credibility of one of the State’s few corroborating witnesses,” the court said.
DeSimone went on trial a second time in March 2012. Samantha again testified to her memory of the events. DeSimone, who did not testify at the first trial, testified at the second trial and told the jury that he realized Samantha was very intoxicated around 9 p.m. He took her to a bathroom on the first floor so she could vomit.
He told the jury that he went back upstairs where the party was and where his bedroom was located and an altercation occurred, so he ordered all the guests to leave. DeSimone said Samantha and a few others were attempting to get the guests to leave when she sat down at a kitchen table on the second floor, put her head on the table and passed out.
DeSimone said he was downstairs for a while and when he went upstairs, he saw Samantha engaged in intercourse in the kitchen with Joseph Baker—the prosecution witness who had earlier testified that he passed out on a couch after seeing Samantha passed out on DeSimone’s bed.
DeSimone said he went to bed and did not see or hear anything until 6 or 7 a.m. when Baker woke him and asked to use his cell phone. DeSimone said that when he woke up, he did not know where Samantha was or how or when she left the apartment. He denied engaging in any sexual activity with her.
On March 29, 2012, the jury acquitted DeSimone and he was released.
DeSimone filed a state lawsuit seeking to be declared a wrongfully imprisoned individual so that he could obtain compensation from the State of Iowa. In December 2013, the case was still pending.
– Maurice Possley