Tuesday 12 December 2017

Rape case shatters tranquility of the Hamptons' well-heeled elite

A 20-year-old Irish student will give evidence this week in NY rape trial of former Goldman Sachs executive

Jason Lee and his wife
Jason Lee and his wife

Brian Byrne

The Hamptons at the southern tip of Long Island, and colonised each summer by America's wealthy elite, boasts some of the most expensive real estate in the world.

Residents of the exclusive, and unashamedly snooty enclave, jealously guard their privacy.

But the picture-perfect necklace of villages and hamlets was under intense and unwelcome media scrutiny last week as the trial began of a former executive with the powerful investment giant Goldman Sachs, who allegedly raped a young Irish woman in August 2013.

The prosecution told the judge at the trial that the former New York City investment banker was wearing no clothes when he forced his way into a bathroom and raped the Irish woman in his home, hours after meeting her at a Hamptons nightclub while celebrating his birthday.

A defence lawyer for 38-year-old Jason Lee argued that the encounter was the result of "consensual sex".

Lee was arrested in August 2013 after the woman accused him of attacking her in a bathroom at the home he had rented with his wife in the summer resort town of East Hampton.

Prosecuting lawyer, Kerriann Kelly, alleged that Lee busted through a bathroom door while nude - knocking the young woman to the ground - and jumped on top of her and raped her as she attempted to fight him off.

"It was a contest of wills," Kelly said. "And unfortun- ately, the defendant won."

Lee has pleaded not guilty and has opted for a non-jury trial before Suffolk County Court judge, Barbara Kahn. He is free on $100,000 bail.

Lee's attorney, Andrew Lankler, told the judge that the sex was consensual. He said several other people were in the living room, just feet from the bathroom, and no one heard any screaming.

"The evidence is consistent with consensual sex," Mr Lankler said in opening statements.

This week, the young Irish woman who alleges she was raped, is expected to testify.

The 20-year-old had been working in the United States on a temporary J-1 visa.

Mr Lee, who appeared in court on Wednesday dressed in a sharp navy suit alongside his wife Alicia, is alleged to have forced his way into the bathroom where the student had been changing, pulled down her dress and underwear, and raped her in the early hours of August 20.

The court in Riverhead, Suffolk County, New York heard East Hampton town police officer Lisa Weitz say she discovered Mr Lee "in a foetal position" in the back of a Range Rover at the property at 1 Cloverleaf Lane, hours after the alleged rape took place.

It also emerged that police had originally attended the scene after receiving a 911 call from Mr Lee's friend Rene Duncan, who claimed his car had been stolen, at approximately 6.30am that morning.

However, after the arrival of police officer Sarah Mortensen, who was first on the scene, the alleged victim's brother, whom she had been visiting in New York, informed her his sister had been raped.

Ms Mortensen told the court she asked the alleged victim to sit in the back of her police car.

The police officer said the alleged victim had told her that a Chinese man had raped her and the young woman "looked visibly upset".

Ms Weitz, the second officer on scene, said that after searching the house and finding nobody inside, she looked through the windscreen of a Range Rover parked nearby and saw Mr Lee.

"Someone appeared to be crouched down inside the Range Rover. I looked through the windscreen, and (Mr Lee) was in the back.

"I knocked on the glass and opened the door, and saw an Asian gentleman, who was very excited, and popped his head up. He was in a foetal position, and said how embarrassed he was. He said he was drunk, and had passed out," she said.

Mr Lee had met the student, her brother and a friend at a nearby restaurant earlier the previous evening, and invited them to the house, the court heard.

The Irish student and her friend had been in a swimming pool when Mr Lee stripped naked and entered the pool, said head of Suffolk County District Attorney's major crime division Kerriann Kelly.

Ms Kelly said the attack occurred after the student later went into a bathroom to change back into her dress, when Mr Lee forced the door open, injuring her.

However, lawyer for Mr Lee, Andrew Lankler, insisted the sex had been consensual, and that bruising that the woman claimed to have received to her hip during the incident was in fact pre-existing.

Mr Lee faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted of rape. The case continues tomorrow.

Sunday Independent

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