In the early morning hours of April 24, 2004, a woman said she was raped in a basement room of a fraternity house at the University of Wisconsin in Whitewater, Wisconsin. She identified her attacker as 21-year-old Anthony Prineas, a fraternity member.
Prineas was charged with six counts of rape. The charging documents alleged that he raped her vaginally, anally and ejaculated on her breasts.
Prineas went on trial in Walworth County Circuit Court on November 1, 2004. The victim testified that at 3:30 a.m., she went to the basement of the fraternity house to call her mother, because the music upstairs was too loud. She said she was in the game room when she heard Prineas, whom she had not met, call her name. He invited her to see the rest of the basement and when they entered the chapter room, shut the door, turned off the light and while holding his hand over the switch, ordered her to undress. The room was pitch black.
The woman testified that she told him that he had to be joking, but that Prineas said, “No, bitch, I’m not kidding. Take your clothes off.” She said Prineas, who was physically much larger than her, grabbed her with one hand and began removing her clothes with the other. She said she resisted and swore at him, but Prineas told her to “shut up.” The woman said that when she realized Prineas wasn’t going to stop, she asked him to “please at least wear a condom.”
She testified to six separate sexual acts, during which Prineas physically restrained her. During one of the assaults, she said Prineas struck her on the buttocks. She testified that he penetrated her vaginally and anally. Afterward, she said Prineas got dressed, turned the light on, and told her to take her time getting dressed and left. She said she got dressed and went upstairs and told her friends she wanted to leave.
A nurse who examined the woman the next day testified that there were bruises on the woman’s back, a hand-shaped bruise on her buttock, an abrasion on her thigh, and a vaginal laceration. The physical examination disclosed no anal trauma. The nurse testified that the vaginal abrasion was consistent with intercourse that occurred by force. She could not say whether the injuries might also be consistent with vigorous consensual intercourse.
Prineas testified to a much different scenario and claimed that the sex was consensual. He said that when he introduced himself to the woman and said he would like to get know her better later, she replied, “Why wait?” When he asked if she would like to go downstairs with him, she agreed.
The prosecution objected to the testimony about what the woman said, contending that it was hearsay. The judge allowed that testimony to stand, but he instructed the jury that they could not consider whether it was true, but merely to explain what Prineas said happened next.
Prineas testified that they went to the basement game room and began “making out on the couch,” but when they heard someone coming down the stairs, he asked if she wanted to go to another room. When she said, “Yes,” Prineas said they went into the chapter room where she asked if he had protection. He said he did and she said, “Okay.” The judge struck the testimony about what the woman said and ordered the jury to disregard it.
Prineas said they tried to have sex standing up, but when that was unsuccessful, they went to the floor. He said they had intercourse, during which he spanked her, then they switched positions and ultimately he ejaculated on her chest. He said she did not object to, or refuse, any of the sexual activity.
On November 4, 2004, the jury acquitted Prineas of four counts of sexual assault, but convicted him of two counts. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
In 2010, after his conviction was upheld on appeal, Prineas filed a post-conviction motion for a new trial. In his motion he argued that his trial attorney failed to make a proper objection to the ruling by the trial judge that barred him from testifying about what the woman said during their encounter.
At a hearing on the motion, the judge heard testimony that Prineas, had he been allowed, would have testified that upon entering the chapter room, the woman told Prineas to make sure the door was locked. Prineas also would have testified that after having sex from behind and spanking her, they switched positions so that the woman voluntarily got on top of him to continue intercourse, and that when he asked if she wanted to switch positions again, she said, “Yes,” and they changed to the missionary position. Finally, told according to Prineas, she told him not to tell anyone what happened.
In August 2010, the judge denied the motion for new trial, ruling that although Prineas’s lawyer had not objected to the exclusion of the testimony, Prineas still had received a fair trial.
In December 2011, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals reversed that ruling and vacated Prineas’s conviction and ordered a new trial. The appellate court held that the woman’s statements were admissible as prior inconsistent statements.
The court also held that the testimony about the woman’s “requests as to locking the door, wearing protection, and changing positions during the encounter could all contribute to a finding that there was an affirmative indication of willingness.”
The court declared, “The entire case was tried on the issue of consent. One can only speculate as to the impact the erroneously excluded statements would have had as to certain alleged acts as opposed to others.”
On September 17, 2012, the Walworth County District Attorney’s Office dismissed the charges and Prineas was released.
– Maurice Possley