A woman told jurors Tuesday that Tony Cercy sexually assaulted her at his Alcova lake house and later threatened to kill her if she told anyone.
The woman, who was 20 at the time of the alleged assault, said she was haunted by nightmares in the days after she woke to the Casper businessman performing oral sex on her. She testified that she dreamed Cercy was chasing her and she was never able to get away.
Testifying for roughly fours hours in Natrona County District Court, the alleged victim told jurors she had been passed out on Cercy’s couch after a long day of drinking when she awoke to Cercy sexually assaulting her. She said she was reticent to report the allegations after Cercy threatened to kill her and himself if she did so.
Cercy faces three felony counts of sexual assault in the case. He has pleaded not guilty.
Pamela Mackey, Cercy’s lead defense attorney, began cross-examining the woman late Tuesday afternoon and insinuated that the woman’s story had changed over the course of the investigation. Despite the alleged victim’s denials of some of Mackey’s characterizations, the defense attorney pressed on, focusing on the woman’s initial conversations with friends following the assault.
The woman first said she did not recall telling investigators that yelling had taken place following the assault. After Mackey presented her with a transcript of an interview with sheriff’s deputies, the alleged victim agreed that was what she had said.
Before the woman testified, prosecutors and Cercy’s defense attorneys outlined their cases to the jury.
In opening statements, District Attorney Mike Blonigen said Cercy took advantage of the woman’s drunken state for his own sexual gratification.
“You can’t consent to what you don’t know about,” Blonigen said in front of a courtroom audience numbering roughly 100.
He said Cercy was also extremely intoxicated on June 25, the morning of the alleged assault, to the point of “trying to eat ice cream without a spoon.”
The woman attempted to contact people by phone more than 40 times in the hour following the alleged assault, Blonigen said. He said a roughly 15 minute silent period occurred when Cercy drove the woman to a friend’s house.
The prosecutor said the woman had bruises on her legs that could not have been caused by walking into something.
As he finished his statement, Blonigen pointed at the defendant, saying: “He exploited a drunk, helpless girl for his own personal gratification.”
Defense Attorney Pamela Mackey followed by telling jurors the woman’s story was inconsistent, unreliable and did not consist of enough evidence to convict Cercy in a case she said lacks physical evidence.
The woman’s story changed three times in the hours following the alleged assault, Mackey said. The woman also refused to report the alleged assault despite the encouragement of her friends, the defense attorney said.
“Mere words are not enough,” Mackey said. “And that is all the prosecution will bring you.”
Prosecutors are expected to call an expert witness to testify that sexual assault victims frequently do not report, and when they do, they sometimes report in a piecemeal fashion.
Mackey described Cercy as spending a quiet weekend at the lake before the woman and her friends came to his house. She said after Cercy’s wife expelled the younger crowd, the woman stayed behind asleep on the couch, before leaving in the night.
The woman’s allegations could not have taken place, Mackey said. Four dogs in the house would have woken following an assault of alleged victim’s description, the defense attorney said.
“It will not be proven,” Mackey said. “Because it cannot be proven.”
In addition to Mackey, Cercy is also represented by local attorney Ian Sandefer and Jeff Pagliuca, who works in the same Denver law firm as Mackey.
The prosecution’s first witness
The alleged victim took the witness stand shortly before noon Tuesday and said the Casper businessman frequently commented on her appearance.
She told jurors she had known Cercy since she was in seventh grade. She said Cercy sometimes called her “hottie.”
“I don’t think he ever called me by my name,” she said.
After a lunch break, the woman stayed on the stand until 5 p.m., with occasional pauses for the attorneys to discuss procedural matters.
As Blonigen projected a series of photos showing the driveway, porch, a sliding glass door and finally the couch in Cercy’s lake house, the woman said she arrived drunk, walked into the house, used the bathroom and passed out on the couch. She did not remember anything until hours later, when she awoke to find a man licking her genitals, she testified.
The woman told jurors she pushed the man’s head away. He stood up, and lights from the porch and a nearby bar area illuminated Tony Cercy, she said.
Cercy said he had been trying to wake her up with his tongue and penis, the woman told jurors.
The alleged victim began swinging at Cercy, while he backpedaled away from her while saying nothing had happened, she testified.
The woman then described a series of more than 40 phone calls and one text message she sent following the alleged assault.
When she was apparently unable to reach anyone, she said Cercy drove her to a nearby trailer park and dropped her off three or four trailers away from a friend’s trailer. Before she left, he threatened her life, she told the jury.
She described the alleged assault in a variety of fashions to friends that morning, she said. Friends later discouraged the woman from reporting the alleged assault to police, she testified.
The woman reported the alleged assault on June 28.
Mackey then took to the lectern and implied the woman had described being driven by people other than Cercy and walking to the friend’s trailer, before she said Cercy drove her. The woman denied these characterizations.
Mackey also said the woman’s description of the alleged assault had changed, which the witness also denied.
When Mackey asked the woman about “yelling,” she at first said she did not believe she was yelling. She said she did not remember characterizing a conversation with Cercy as such.
After reviewing an investigative transcript, the woman said that was what she said.
Mackey then brought up the question of barking dogs. The woman said she had never mentioned barking dogs and smiled.
“Why are you smiling?” Mackey queried.
“Because that’s been your main argument the entire time.”
“And you think that’s funny?” Mackey asked.
After the woman said yes, Mackey asked the judge if she should continue her questioning any further beyond 5 p.m.
Forgey dismissed the jury until 9:30 a.m. Wednesday.