On the third day of trial in a sex assault case, the jury heard both the most incriminating evidence against and the most exonerating evidence in favor of a 60-year-old defendant accused of sexually assaulting a family member while she was sleeping.
State prosecutors on Monday rested their case against Frank W. Lee after playing an audio recording of a phone call wherein Lee drunkenly admits to being in the alleged victim’s room on Sept. 10, 2012, and performing sex acts on her while she was unaware that was taking place.
The Juneau Police Department obtained a Glass warrant that allowed them to secretly record the phone call between Lee and the alleged victim the day after the assault was reported, according to testimony from Juneau Police Department Sgt. Paul Hatch, a now retired investigator who recorded the call. Hatch testified the alleged victim agreed to participate by calling Lee from the police station as Hatch helped her with prompts.
The Empire is not disclosing the alleged victim’s name or how she is related to Lee in order to protect her identity. The Empire does not name victims or possible victims of sex crimes without their permission. Lee and the alleged victim, however, are not related by blood.
The alleged victim, a mother in her early 20s, reported being assaulted while she slept over at Lee’s house following his 60th birthday celebration. She testified last week that she awoke in her bed to find Lee performing a sex act on her. Lee is charged with three counts of felony sexual assault in connection to the incident, and if convicted, he could be facing up to 99 years in prison for each count.
But the jury on Monday also heard evidence that the DNA testing results came back with nothing incriminating despite the fact that the DNA samples were taken almost immediately after the attack was reported. The defense previously described the DNA results as being “completely exonerating.”
Sara Graziano, a DNA analyst from the Alaska Crime Lab in Anchorage, testified from the witness stand that the finger swabs taken from Lee only showed his DNA, and that the swabs taken from the alleged victim only showed her DNA. Graziano said they were both single source profiles that did not contain mixtures from anyone else’s DNA genetic profiles.
“So the conclusion that we can draw is that ... (the victim’s) DNA was not on Mr. Lee’s fingers, right?” Assistant Public Defender Eric Hedland, Lee’s defense attorney, asked the analyst on cross-examination.
“There was no evidence of a mixture on those finger swabs,” Graziano said. “All the DNA that was detected was consistent with the owner from which it was collected, Mr. Lee, in the finger swabs in this case.”
Graziano also testified that the DNA she tested from the alleged victim was consistent with the woman’s DNA. Lee’s DNA was not found on her body.
Further complicating the state’s case is the fact that a grand juror reported overhearing the alleged victim tell someone on the phone that, “In order to get rid of someone that you don’t want to have around, just accuse them of rape.” The grand juror, who helped indict Lee last September, was reportedly so disturbed about the comment, he reported it to the court. It is not known if the grand juror will testify on Tuesday as the defense presents its case.
Juneau Superior Court Judge Louis Menendez on Monday denied a motion for a judgment of acquittal requested by Hedland, who argued the lack of DNA evidence should be enough to clear his client’s name.
Testimony is expected to wrap up on Tuesday, and closing arguments are expected to take place sometime in the afternoon. At that point, the case will be in the hands of the 12 jurors.
• Contact reporter Emily Russo Miller at 523-2263 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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