In June 1999, 39-year-old David Gonzalez, manager of a restaurant in Spearfish, South Dakota, was charged with the attempted rape of a former employee six years earlier when the employee, a hostess, was 15 years old.
Gonzalez went on trial in Lawrence County Circuit Court in December 1999. The victim, who was then 21 years old, said that in September 1993, on two occasions Gonzalez summoned her to his basement office. She said that she got to the office, Gonzalez turned off the lights and partially undressed her and attempted to penetrate her with his penis. She said that on both occasions she easily fended him off and ran from the office. She said she did not report either incident to authorities until 1998.
Gonzalez, a Panamanian immigrant who had worked his way from clearing tables up to the position of restaurant manager, denied any sexual contact with the victim.
On December 14, 1999, a jury convicted Gonzalez of two counts of attempted statutory rape. The judge sentenced Gonzalez to 18 months in prison.
In the spring of 2000, the prosecution turned over the counseling records of the victim, although the defense had requested the records prior to the trial.
The records showed that the victim told her counselor a much different story of what happened. The victim said that there was only one incident and that Gonzalez had raped her.
On April 18, 2001, the South Dakota Supreme Court reversed Gonzalez’s conviction. The court held that the reliability of the victim’s statements was “the cornerstone of this prosecution” and that the contradictory versions of what happened called into question the victim’s credibility.
On August 13, 2001, the prosecution dismissed the charges and Gonzalez was released.
– Maurice Possley