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Frank Lee sex assault trial to begin this week

Jury selection underway in case against Lee, 60

Posted: September 3, 2013 - 8:36pm  |  Updated: September 4, 2013 - 12:00am

A local man is standing trial this week for allegedly sexually assaulting a woman who was sleeping over at his house after his 60th birthday celebration.

Jury selection began Tuesday in Juneau Superior Court for defendant Frank W. Lee, and a jury of 12 (plus alternates) will likely be seated on Wednesday. Attorneys expect the trial to last five days.

Prosecutors accused Lee of engaging in sexual acts with the woman, in her 20s, as she was sleeping on a couch in a back bedroom of Lee’s apartment the night of Sept. 10, 2012. In an affidavit, prosecutors wrote the woman awoke during the assault and told Lee to stop. Her yells awoke her friend sleeping in the same room and also scared Lee off, the affidavit states. The friend, who is serving as a witness for the state, reported the incident to police.

Assistant District Attorney Amy Williams, who is prosecuting the case, said Lee confessed during a phone call with the victim that was being recorded by police. The state charged him with one count of first-degree sex assault and two counts of second-degree sex assault, felonies that have a maximum possible penalty of 99 years in prison. The latter charge encompasses the element of knowingly engaging in the sexual act while the woman was incapacitated or unaware that a sexual act was being committed.

The state’s case, however, is not unproblematic — the defense says there’s no incriminating DNA evidence. Assistant Public Defender Eric Hedland pointed out in pretrial hearings that a lab report from the state crime lab indicated Lee’s saliva was not found on the woman despite the fact that swabs were taken from her with within two hours of the police report. Another DNA test was inconclusive, Hedland said. The attorney called the results “completely exonerating.”

The defense also questioned the victim’s motivations after a grand juror apparently heard her saying on the phone, “In order to get rid of someone that you don’t want to have around, just accuse them of rape, testify to a grand jury, and it’s done and over with,” Hedland wrote in an earlier motion.

Hedland said the grand juror overheard those statements at a bus stop as he was going home from the grand jury proceedings on Sept. 14, 2012. According to the written motion, the grand juror said he felt “disturbed” by her statements and he had the overall impression that she was “acting as if it was a game.” The juror came forward on his own volition to the judge and a prosecutor about the matter about a week later.

Prosecutors signaled they do not believe the victim made those comments, and Williams in an earlier motion dismissed them as “unverified, unsworn” statements.

On Tuesday, a jury pool of about 30 was halved, but 25 more potential jurors will be brought in as the process of jury selection continues.

Judge Louis Menendez will be presiding over the trial.

• Contact reporter Emily Russo Miller at 523-2263 or at emily.miller@juneauempire.com.

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