Atascadero rape trial heads to jury

The San Luis Obispo Superior Court trial of Rian Mabus, 31, went into jury deliberations Tuesday afternoon.
The San Luis Obispo Superior Court trial of Rian Mabus, 31, went into jury deliberations Tuesday afternoon. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

A Paso Robles man facing 10 years in state prison on suspicion of raping his girlfriend’s intoxicated aunt during a 2014 family visit in Atascadero admitted he lied to investigators before DNA results showed he had sex with the woman, but he testified this week that the sex was consensual.

The San Luis Obispo Superior Court trial of Rian Mabus, 31, went into jury deliberations Tuesday afternoon. Mabus is charged with two felony counts: raping an intoxicated person and raping a person who is “unconscious of the nature of the act.”

Last week, the aunt — identified in court as Jane Doe — testified that on Aug. 30, 2014, she, her 16-year-old daughter and her daughter’s 16-year-old boyfriend traveled to San Luis Obispo County from Tehachapi for Labor Day weekend. The next day, Doe’s adult niece invited the three to stay at her Atascadero apartment for the night with her, her 13-year old son and her boyfriend, Mabus.

On Aug. 31, the group ate dinner, and the adults began drinking cocktails while the teenagers watched TV.

Mabus mixed the drinks that night, according to testimony.

Doe testified that over several hours, she consumed about five drinks and became very intoxicated, running several times to the bathroom to vomit. The three teens ended up sleeping in the living room, Mabus and Doe’s niece in the niece’s bedroom and Jane Doe remaining in the bathroom, where she claimed she lost consciousness.

She testified that she awoke face-down in a pool of vomit on a bed in her nephew’s empty room with Mabus penetrating her vagina from behind. She drifted in and out of consciousness, she said, and did not realize what happened until she woke up alone the next morning.

Doe and the two 16 year olds left Atascadero and returned to Tehachapi. The next day, about 36 hours after the alleged assault, Doe reported the incident to police and went to a hospital for a rape test. The Kern County nurse who administered the test testified Friday that it did not reveal signs of a sexual assault.

Months later, however, a test on seminal fluid came back positive for Mabus’ DNA.

Throughout the trial, Deputy District Attorney Julie Antos implied that Doe may have been drugged by Mabus, which Doe testified she also believed because of her level of intoxication and extreme vomiting. Kern County criminologist Maria Sanchez, whose staff examined samples of Doe’s blood and urine taken at the time of the rape test, testified that the samples came back negative for alcohol or drugs.

Sanchez said, however, that any non-lethal amount of alcohol would have completely dissipated within 36 hours. She also said her lab did not test for commonly known “date rape drugs” such as GHB, benzodiazepines or rohypnol, though they could have if requested by law enforcement. Asked by defense attorney Matthew Guerrero if any request was made, Sanchez said there was not.

On Monday, Mabus took the stand in his own defense.

He said he awoke in the middle of the night to use the bathroom, where he found Doe, who he said stood up, leaned up on him for a kiss and reached into his pants, touching his penis. He said he told her, “Not here,” and Doe then led the way to the 13-year-old’s unoccupied room, where the two had sex, missionary style, on the bed for less than five minutes before he returned to his room.

“I went to the bathroom trying to go pee that night,” Mabus said. “I wasn’t trying to cheat on my girlfriend. That wasn’t part of my plan.”

He said interactions between him and Doe the next morning were “awkward,” but he thought she was “mildly embarrassed” and the two did not discuss the previous night.

About two weeks later, Doe made a “pretext” phone call to Mabus with an Atascadero detective listening in. Mabus — who had served in Iraq with the U.S. Marine Corps and then worked from 2012 to 2014 at Camp Roberts with the California National Guard — was at Camp Roberts at the time. During the call, Mabus denied the two had sex.

On the stand, he explained that his girlfriend — Jane Doe’s niece — also worked at Camp Roberts and had already been told by Jane Doe of the rape allegations and was standing nearby during the call.

Mabus testified that he suspected he was on speaker phone and went to the Atascadero Police Department the same day to talk to an officer about concerns he was being accused of rape. He admitted on the stand that he told the detective during the first interview that he and Doe never had sexual contact. When confronted with the DNA results months later, he admitted the encounter.

“That was a lie,” Mabus testified. “I know once you lie, it’s hard to come back from that. ... I knew I shot my credibility.”

Before finishing his testimony Tuesday, Mabus acknowledged that his lies cast him in a bad light but said he was scared. “Yes, I was, of losing the family unit that I worked really hard to make over a decision that was really selfish,” he said.

In her closing argument Tuesday, Antos painted Mabus as an opportunist who didn’t think he would get caught.

“Ms. Doe was in a place where she should have felt safe to be very intoxicated. The only thing she should have suffered was the very bad hangover the next morning,” Antos said. “The defendant chose to have sex with her when she couldn’t consent — she couldn’t even talk.”

Legal consent, Antos said, means being able to exercise reasonable judgment before participating in an act.

She said that Mabus, who has had a vasectomy, didn’t realize investigators could confirm his DNA through seminal fluid.

“He believes no one is going to believe her and that there is no evidence,” Antos said.

In his closing statement, Guerrero, the defense attorney, argued that Mabus’ DNA did not constitute evidence of rape and that the DA’s Office failed to prove Mabus was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

He pointed to DNA results that showed Mabus’ saliva on Doe’s chest, which he argued proved that she was lying on her back during the sexual encounter, not face-down as she testified. Guerrero argued that Doe may have “blacked out” from alcohol and did not recall the events that led Mabus to believe she was consenting to sex.

“Blackouts are sneaky,” he said. “There’s no indicator light that comes on on someone’s forehead to tell other people that they’re blacked out. You can tell jokes at the bar, sing karaoke, and the next day have no recollection what you did.”

However, Guerrero told jurors he believed that Doe remembered the sex and regretted it.

“What you see ... is shame,” Guerrero said. “She’s afraid perhaps because she doesn’t know if she is a victim, or maybe she’s afraid because she knows she’s not.”

Listing several prominent public figures caught in romantic affairs, including former President Bill Clinton, Guerrero said Mabus didn’t deserve to go to prison for lying about a brief, consensual, sexual encounter.

“Men lie about affairs to their families, friends, spouses. They lie to save their relationships, their homes, their families,” he said. “I think the same is true for women when they have an affair. They have something to lose.”

He added: “Being a liar doesn’t make you a rapist.”

Both counts carry a maximum sentence of eight years in state prison. If convicted on both counts, the maximum sentence Mabus faces is 10 years.

Deliberations are expected to continue Wednesday in San Luis Obispo Superior Court.