Gilbert ’16 trial: Prosecution calls five undergraduates, expert witness

by Marina Shkuratov | 3/20/14 3:12pm

The prosecution resumed its case against Parker Gilbert ’16, a 21-year-old former Dartmouth student accused of rape, late on Thursday morning. The prosecution questioned an expert witness about delayed disclosures of sexual violence and five Dartmouth undergraduate students, including the complainant’s roommate. As a general practice, The Dartmouth does not identify alleged victims of sexual assault.

The prosecution outlined the timeline of events leading up to the alleged assault and called witnesses who said the complainant acted differently following that night — she was more subdued than usual on May 2, 2013, a witness said, and subsequently slept in friends’ beds instead of her own. In cross-examinations, the defense emphasized that no one near the alleged victim heard shouts, crying or other loud noises on the morning of May 2.

Gilbert is charged with seven counts of aggravated felonious sexual assault against a 19-year-old female undergraduate student, as well as one count of criminal trespass for entering her room uninvited before the alleged assault. If convicted, Gilbert could serve up to 20 years in prison for each count of sexual assault. Gilbert, of London, was arrested May 15.

Both sides have agreed that Gilbert entered the complainant’s room early on May 2, and that there was penetrative intercourse between Gilbert and the female student. Both sides also agree that the alleged victim vomited when she saw Gilbert the following Friday night, after which Gilbert sent her an apologetic email about what had happened on the morning of May 2. The sides do not agree, however, on whether the morning’s acts were consensual.

On May 1, the complainant saw Gilbert at Beta Alpha Omega fraternity. She returned to her room at approximately 1:30 a.m. and then fell asleep in her bed next to a female friend. The alleged assault then occurred in the complainant’s room. That day, she spoke to friends about the alleged attack and was examined by a Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center nurse for signs of sexual assault.

On Thursday, the prosecution called its first witness, a female friend and floormate of the complainant. To preserve the complainant’s anonymity, The Dartmouth has not identified this witness or other floormates who testified Thursday.

This witness saw the alleged victim both before and after she came home from Beta, she said, and spoke with her on May 2 about the alleged assault.

The witness testified that when she saw the female student who spent the night in the complainant’s bed, this student seemed heavily intoxicated. She also said the complainant was quieter than usual the afternoon of May 2.

During her direct examination by assistant county prosecutor Paul Fitzgerald, the witness said she did not see the complainant consume alcohol before the alleged assault and that she knew her to have a “very high” alcohol tolerance.

The witness also testified to the intoxication levels of the male and female students who accompanied the complainant back to her room on the night of the alleged assault. The witness said that while the male student, who testified yesterday, was “definitely functional” and “didn’t come across as sloppy,” the female friend, who would later spend the night in the complainant’s bed and also testified yesterday, was “very, very intoxicated.”

When that female friend drinks, the witness said, she becomes “flighty,” “spacey” and “not very observant.” She had taken medication that night, the witness said, amplifying these effects.

The witness said she saw the complainant at around 1:15 p.m. on May 2. The alleged victim, who the witness said is typically a “very animated speaker,” did not make eye contact when they spoke about the previous night, the witness said.

After their conversation, the witness accompanied the complainant to Dick’s House and then back to her residential hall. The complainant saw Gilbert outside the building when the group arrived, the witness said, “went completely pale” and began speaking rapidly.

The witness accompanied the complainant to DHMC, where they remained for at least four hours. It was the alleged victim’s decision to go to DHMC that day, the witness said. The witness stayed with her once she returned to her residential hall and said the complainant felt very sick from the medication she took during the examination.

“She was nauseous and vomiting,” the witness said. “Besides that, she was trying very hard to act like normal. But you could tell that something was different.”

In his cross-examination of this witness, attorney Robert Cary ’86, of Williams and Connolly, focused on statements the witness had made to Hanover Police chief Frank Moran. In a previous statement to Moran, Cary said, the witness had said the complainant typically drank more than most students she knew, that she had first told her about the alleged assault “casually,” that she “didn’t seem that upset” when they first started speaking and only grew agitated as the witness “picked it apart.”

The witness, whose voice wavered during the cross-examination, said she had not seen the transcript of this statement and no longer agrees that the female student “casually mentioned” the alleged assault.

“She seemed like she was in shock,” she said.

The witness said the female student grew “less vacant” as the two continued to discuss the alleged assault. During this conversation, the complainant said she did not feel very drunk earlier that night and had not been spending time with Gilbert, the witness said.

The witness confirmed that during her conversation with the complainant on May 2, the alleged victim told the witness that Gilbert had called her names, that she had engaged in fellatio for about five minutes and that her roommate may have entered the room during the alleged attack.

Cary asked the witness if there had been protests about sexual assault at the College in the days before the alleged assault and if classes had been cancelled at one point in April to raise awareness of the issue. The witness confirmed that there had been protests and administrators had cancelled classes, but she said the issue of sexual assault was not the sole motivation for these events.

After a recess for lunch, county prosecutor Lara Saffo called Victoria Banyard, a psychology professor at the University of New Hampshire who specializes in the study and prevention of sexual violence.

Banyard, who said she knows none of the facts in the case against Gilbert, testified as an expert about delayed disclosures of sexual assault. Banyard has experience as a professor, a clinician and a researcher specializing in interpersonal violence.

Banyard introduced research that said between 75 and 80 percent of sexual violence survivors tell someone about the assault, most commonly a friend or roommate. She said survivors rarely disclose the information to “formal supports,” like law enforcement. Several studies show that between 2 and 6 percent of adult survivors report their assaults to authorities, she said.

Survivors differ in their timing of disclosures, she said, and about 20 percent wait over a year to come forward.

Substance use and familiarity with the perpetrator make survivors less likely to come forward, Banyard said. They are more likely to report an assault if it involves a weapon or, if in college, if the assault occurs off campus.

Shame, embarrassment, a fear of not being believed and a desire to keep the information hidden from others can prevent individuals from disclosing their assaults, she said.

During a cross examination, Banyard confirmed that the studies she cited used a broader definition of sexual violence than the legal definition of rape.

When Cary said the cited studies cannot account for false reporting, Banyard confirmed that the studies do rely on respondents’ honesty but said there is no benefit to lying because surveys are anonymous. Banyard said she is familiar with studies showing a false reporting rate of 8 to 10 percent for sexual assault.

The prosecution’s next witness, a male floormate of the complainant, said the alleged victim slept in his room two or three times after the alleged assault. Tuesday, the complainant said she did not feel comfortable sleeping in her own room after the alleged attack.

During his cross-examination by defense attorney Cathy Green, of Green and Utter, the witness, who had lived across the hall, confirmed that he did not hear anyone yell during the night of the alleged assault and called himself a “pretty heavy sleeper.”

Next, Fitzgerald called the female student’s roommate at the time of the alleged assault. The female student and her roommate shared a two-room double, and the witness’s inner room could be accessed by walking through the complainant’s room, which opened to the hallway. The witness said she heard the complainant return to her room at around midnight on May 2, then leave again. The alleged victim, crying, returned to their room at approximately 1 a.m., the roommate said. The witness said she heard her roommate’s female friend offer to stay the night.

Later, the witness studied at her desk, which stood against the wall separating the two rooms. The witness said Gilbert opened the door connecting the two rooms and closed it, having said nothing. The witness said she was surprised to see Gilbert, whom she did not know at the time, and also said nothing.

After Gilbert closed her door, the witness said she heard whispering followed by “heavy breathing,” which she associated with sexual intercourse. The witness said the only phrase she heard distinctly was the alleged victim saying, “don’t push me.” She later said she does not remember the exact decibel of these words, but they may have been “above the volume of a whisper.”

The witness said she fell asleep at some point while she believed her roommate was having sex. Her head was near a window, and her bed lay against the wall farthest from the complainant’s room, she said. Later that night, she woke up when the complainant’s friend, who had spent the night in the alleged victim’s room, entered her room.

In her testimony on Wednesday, the complainant’s friend, who had slept in the complainant’s bed, said she did not remember waking up at any point during the night or walking into the other room of the two-room double.

The complainant’s roommate said she did not have anything to drink that night.

In a cross-examination, the witness confirmed she did not hear any loud noises, crying or expressions of pain on the morning of May 2. She confirmed that she did not remember hearing anyone fall to the floor and did not think that an attack occurred in the next room that morning. Several times, the witness paused for a few seconds before confirming Cary’s statements.

The witness said she had heard the alleged victim cry in her room at various points throughout the year, including when she returned to her room earlier that night.The complainant's roommate is a member of The Dartmouth staff.

The prosecution’s next witness was Mykel Nairne ’16, a female student who had lived on the same floor as Gilbert. She said she sent him a text message at 2:48 a.m. on May 2 saying she had returned to their residence hall. She saw Gilbert in their hallway at around 3 or 3:30 a.m. The defense did not cross-examine this witness.

Saffo then called Christopher Banks ’16, Gilbert’s friend and rugby teammate. Banks said he and Gilbert consumed alcohol in Gilbert’s room, a room in the Choates residential cluster and a room in the Russell Sage residential cluster before Banks left for Beta at around midnight of May 2.

Banks said he spoke briefly to the complainant, whom he did not know before that night. She seemed “perfectly fine” when they spoke, he said. Gilbert was also at the fraternity that night, Banks said.

Court will resume at 9:30 a.m. tomorrow, when Saffo will continue with the direct examination of Banks.

This article has been updated to reflect the following correction: Correction appended: January 7, 2014 The original version of this article did not identify the witness's roommate as a member of The Dartmouth staff. The story has been revised to clarify this identification.

Editor's note (June 15, 2014): Gilbert was acquitted of all charges on March 27, 2014. For a full story, clickhere.