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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

"I never raped this woman", court told

Sulaiman Kamal | 10:24 PM | Best Blogger Tips

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A man accused of kidnapping a woman in Hoboken and raping her before dumping her naked in Palisades Park testified in his own trial Tuesday, telling jurors that he only had consensual sex with the alleged victim.

“I never raped this woman,” Michael Cawley said in Superior Court in Hackensack, during a full day of testimony that, at times, turned heated.

Cawley said he met the woman outside a club in Hoboken on Aug. 21, 2005, and took her voluntarily to his home in Newark, where they had sex before he fell asleep.


When he woke up hours later, his friend and co-defendant, Byron Chica, told him that he drove the woman home because she wanted to leave.

Cawley’s testimony clashes with that of the alleged victim, who told jurors earlier in the trial that two men dragged her into a blue sport-utility vehicle, and that one of them raped her in the back of the car while the other one drove.

She said she was wearing only her bra when the men pushed her out of the vehicle on a desolate street in Palisades Park and took off.

The woman said she was drunk that night and did not remember her attacker’s face. The case had gone cold after the woman failed to identify her attacker in a photo lineup.

It was revived about two years later, after detectives pulled over a driver in Jersey City during an unrelated arson investigation and found the alleged victim’s driver’s license in the car.

Prosecutors said the car belonged to Chica and was being driven by one of Chica’s friends. The investigation eventually led to Cawley, who was Chica’s colleague at an EMT unit in Jersey City.

Earlier testimony in the trial showed that Cawley’s DNA matched samples taken from the woman on Aug. 21, 2005.

Backed by E-ZPass records and other evidence, prosecutors argue that Cawley and Chica abducted the woman from Hoboken, and that Cawley sexually assaulted her in the back of the car while Chica drove along the New Jersey Turnpike.

Wayne Mello, an assistant Bergen County prosecutor, stressed during cross-examination that Cawley was essentially testifying that the woman, who is from Rockland County and had never been to Newark, got into a car with four strangers voluntarily and went to Newark.

“Is that your testimony?” Mello asked Cawley.

“That is the truth, sir,” Cawley replied.

The exchange between the two became lively at times, when Cawley accused Mello of “badgering” him and standing too close to him during questioning.

“You look like you are about to swing at me,” Cawley said.

Cawley, meanwhile, drew Judge Patrick Roma’s ire several times when his responses went beyond the questions he was asked. The judge repeatedly warned Cawley to “answer the question without the commentary and rambling dialogue.”

The aggressive questioning came not only from Mello but also from Chica’s attorney, Emile Lisboa. Cawley and Chica, along with their attorneys, share the defense table in the courtroom, but Lisboa went on the attack when Cawley’s testimony seemed to implicate his client in the kidnapping and sexual assault.

Lisboa referred to Cawley’s 68-page statement to police in April 2007, in which he never mentioned having consensual sex with the alleged victim and even denied knowing the woman after police showed him her driver’s license.

“This is the first time you are bringing this to anyone’s attention?” Lisboa asked Cawley.

“Yes,” Cawley replied.

The trial, which started earlier this month, is scheduled to end tomorrow with closing remarks by attorneys.


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