Day 7 — Tony Cercy Sex Assault Case Goes To The Jury
After eight months of investigation and seven days of trial, the case of the alleged sexual assault by Casper businessman Tony Cercy went to the jury in Natrona County District Court at 12:15 p.m. today.
Before the jury recessed to begin deliberations, the prosecution and defense gave their closing arguments.
Cercy was arrested July 28, and heard the charges against him on July 31.
He is charged with:
- One count of first-degree sexual assault (rape), when the perpetrator "knew or reasonably should have known that the victim was physically helpless and that the victim had not consented," which is punishable by between five and 50 years of imprisonment.
- One count of second-degree sexual assault (intrusion) "by means that prevent resistance by a victim," which is punishable by between two years to 20 years of imprisonment.
- One count of sexual contact "without inflicting sexual intrusion and without causing serious bodily injury," which is punishable by up to 15 years of imprisonment.
Cercy was bound over for trial after a two-hour preliminary hearing on Aug. 17.
Court records say the alleged victim told a Natrona County Sheriff's investigator she, her boyfriend, friends and acquaintances arrived at Alcova Lake on the evening of June 23 and spend the next day at the lake. She was drinking heavily and passed out on the rear deck of a boat at Sandy Beach.
On Saturday evening, they went to another location and about 9:45 p.m. went to a residence on Cedar Drive North owned by Cercy.
She said she went into the residence and passed out on the couch in the middle of the living room.
She woke up, looked down and saw Cercy performing oral sex. She pushed him away and asked what he was doing, and he responded he was trying to "'get some action'" from her for the last hour with his "'tongue and "d---,'" according to the affidavit.
Nearly all of her clothing had been removed and Cercy was naked from the waist down, according to the affidavit.
The alleged victim said he eventually gave her a ride to a friend's house and threatened to kill her and himself, according to court records.
District Attorney Mike Blonigen said the case has been about one thing -- the alleged victim who survived, reported and testified about what happened when she awoke about 3:15 a.m. Sunday, June 25 at Cercy's house at Alcova Lake.
"She told you in explicit detail about what happened in the Cercy home," Blonigen said.
He reviewed her testimony last week, her cell phone records, what she told others and how some of their stories changed, and when her parents found out on the morning of June 28. "Her testimony alone is enough to convict."
Her stories to her friends and law enforcement may have been partial, but they were not inconsistent, Blonigen said.
A psychologist who specializes in sexual assault testified victims have varying reactions from panic to denial to blaming her herself and her intoxication, and Blonigen said that was what happened to the alleged victim in this case.
He dismissed as flawed arguments the lack of DNA found on her clothing and an experiment that dogs in the house would have barked upon hearing her allegedly resisting Cercy.
The defense, Blonigen said, wants the jury to believe that the alleged victim made up the story, for which she has no motive, but alleged her testimony and other evidence shows beyond all reasonable doubt that Cercy is guilty.
But Cercy attorney Jeffrey Pagliuca said the alleged victim did just that.
About 2 a.m. June 25, Cercy went to bed, woke up at 8 a.m., and went about an ordinary day at the lake including a boat ride where he later saw the alleged victim and waved at her and she waved back, Pagliuca said.
The next few days were ordinary until Cercy heard the stories about what allegedly happened, he called the alleged victim on June 28, her father responded, and the false allegations turned into a criminal case.
"These are nothing more than words, mere words," he said.
Pagliuca cited three major problems with the case:
- The alleged victim's constantly changing story as she told friends.
- No physical evidence to support the allegations.
- The story makes no sense, logically or otherwise.
He illustrated the latter problem by showing how hard it would have been to remove the alleged victim's clothing starting with the blanket around her, a knee-length sweatshirt borrowed from a friend, her blouse, skinny jeans and underwear -- all without waking her up.
But injuries she said she inflicted on Cercy when she woke up weren't on him, and she had injuries -- allegedly inflicted during the assault -- that were consistent with her being drunk and falling down the day before, Pagliuca said.
The experiment to test whether dogs would have barked during the altercation, based on her interviews by law enforcement, showed their reaction would have been akin to the sound level of a fire alarm -- yet no one woke up in the house, he said.
The DNA tests on her clothing excluded Cercy, and the prosecution decided not to test any more clothing after the first tests came back negative, Pagliuca said.
He then gave his own theory as to what may have happened as the alleged victim crafted, then changed, her "cockamamie story: She was angry after fighting with her boyfriend, passes out at Cercy's place, wakes up and doesn't know how she got there, tries to figure out where she is, and walks to a friend's place at the Alcova Trailer Park using her cell phone's flashlight.
Curiously, she's calling all her friends but does not dial 911, Pagliuca said. "That makes absolutely no sense."
After she started telling the changing her story, and refused to do anything to get an exam, she realizes that she can't take back what she said as the rumors erupted into a criminal case on June 28, he said.
Pagliuca referred to the beginning of the trial, when Judge Daniel Forgey led the courtroom in the Pledge of Allegiance, which ends with "with liberty and justice for all."
That concept of justice means the presumption of innocence, and more than hearsay, he said. "I ask you to return a just and fair verdict of 'not guilty.'"
Blonigen then gave a short response, saying Forgey instructed the jury to not speculate, and instead rely on the evidence and not rape myths.
"The defendant's attempt to exploit every rape myth that exists is not evidence," he said.
Pagliuca's suggestion is nonsense that the alleged intoxicated victim was walking at night in bare feet on gravel texting friends asking for help, Blonigen said.
She began calling at 3:17 a.m., and a witness said he drove her to her cabin on the other side of the lake at 3:57 a.m., which would have been impossible if she had walked.
Blonigen picked up on Pagliuca's reference to the Pledge of Allegiance, saying "justice for all means justice for (the alleged victim) and the State of Wyoming."