SOUTH KINGSTOWN — Yaw Peprah, one of two University of Rhode Island students on trial for alleged sexual assaults of a woman in a dorm, testified Tuesday that he asked twice that night if she wanted to have sex and that she indicated she did.
The testimony contradicted that of the woman who accuses Peprah and Estifanos Gizaw of separate sexual assaults between midnight and 2 a.m. on Sept. 14, 2008.
Peprah said that the night of Sept. 13 he met her at the party in the Wiley Hall dormitory and they engaged in small talk. And they talked about a difficult math class he was taking, said Peprah, of Lincoln, an engineering student at URI.
The woman, he said, brought marijuana to the dorm suite and she and a few others, including Peprah, went outside the dormitory to smoke a joint she had rolled. The woman said Peprah could take in some smoke by kissing her after she inhaled, Peprah testified, and he said he kissed her.
The group got calzones to take back to eat in the dorm suite. Under questioning by defense lawyer Roy Fowler, Peprah testified he and the woman “were kissing and touching” on an elevator to the third floor and in the dorm suite’s common room. Peprah testified he asked if she wanted to have sex, and she said that was OK.
Eventually, Peprah went into the bedroom with the woman and, he said, they sat on the bed, talking, kissing and touching. He said he asked again if she wanted to have sex and she indicated she did.
Fowler, Peprah’s lawyer, asked if another defense witness, Oluwadamilola Adewale, who goes by Henry, had said anything to Peprah that night and whether Peprah did anything as a result.
“It came to mind I should ask” the woman “a couple of times if it’s OK to have sex,” Peprah said. What Adewale told Peprah was not brought out before the jury.
Peprah said he and the woman took their clothes off, and she asked if he had a condom. He put on clothes and got a condom from Gizaw in the hallway and returned to the room, but the condom broke. The woman said a friend had given her a condom, Peprah testified, and he got it from her bag.
The woman said she was OK when, at one point, two other women knocked at the door and came in to see how she was doing, Peprah testified.
The Journal does not identify people who authorities say were victims of sexual assault.
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SOUTH KINGSTOWN, RHODE ISLAND (July 20, 2010) — A prosecutor on Tuesday described the alleged sexual assault of a female student by two University of Rhode Island students in a residence hall after a campus party in 2008 at the opening of their trial in Washington County Superior Court.
Yaw Peprah is accused of sexually assaulting the female “by force and coercion” on Sept. 14, 2008, in a bedroom in Wiley Hall. Estifanos Gizaw, a student from Ethiopia, is accused of coming into the room after Peprah left and forcing himself on her despite her repeatedly telling him no, said Assistant Attorney General Stephen A. Regine.
Regine said the assault occurred after a night that involved alcohol and marijuana and a campus party.
A jury of eight women and six men was selected Tuesday for the trial of Peprah, of Lincoln, and Gizaw, of Houston, Texas, each charged with first-degree sexual assault.
The defense is slated to make opening statements Wednesday. Peprah and Gazar pleaded not guilty to the charges in June 2009.
The woman, a freshman, and several people attended a campus party on the evening of Sept. 13, Regine said.
Regine said the woman and others around her drank alcohol and smoked marijuana that night. He emphasized to the jury that the woman was up front with authorities that she had been drinking and that she estimated having consumed several shots of vodka.
She had also been up front with Peprah, “continually” telling him that she “didn’t want to be with him” that early morning, according to Regine. When the assault allegedly happened, between midnight and 2 a.m. on Sept. 14, she told him repeatedly no. Stop, stop, stop, she said, according to Regine’s account for the jury.
But Peprah did not stop, Regine said.
As soon as Peprah left, Regine said, Gizaw entered the room and told the woman he wanted to have sex with her. “The evidence will show again that [Gizaw] overcame her will by force and coercion,” Regine said.
In December 2009, Marina Melillo, of North Belmore, N.Y., one of the people described Tuesday as attending the campus party, was indicted on first-degree sexual-assault charges in connection with the incident. The case involving her has not yet gone to trial. The Journal reported in December that Melillo was a URI student at the time of the incident, but had since withdrawn from the school.
The Journal does not identify people whom authorities say were victims of sexual assault.
– Michael P. McKinney, The Providence Journal
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