The woman who accused Casper businessman Tony Cercy of raping her at an Alcova lake house made 43 phone calls early in the morning of the alleged assault and sent a text message asking for help, a sheriff’s investigator testified Thursday.
The testimony came during a preliminary hearing where a Casper judge ruled enough evidence exists for the felony case against Cercy to proceed to trial in Natrona County District Court.
The two-hour hearing offered new details about the prosecution’s case against Cercy, a well-known investor and philanthropist. It also offered a preview of his defense. Cercy’s attorney, Pamela Mackey, questioned the motives and reliability of his accuser, noting that the woman had indicated she planned to take civil action against her wealthy client.
Cercy faces charges of first-, second- and third-degree sexual assault in the case.
Sheriff’s investigator Ken Jividen was the hearing’s lone witness. He described evidence that investigators compiled after the woman, 20, alleged Cercy had raped her when she was unconscious on a couch at his Alcova house. She said Cercy, 55, had assaulted her in the early morning of June 25 after she passed out on the couch during a party. She told investigators she woke to him performing oral sex on her.
Jividen said the woman made 43 phone calls in the early morning hours of June 25, beginning at 3:17 a.m. The first text message she sent after the alleged assault was “two words: help, please,” according to Jividen. She later arrived at a nearby trailer where her friends were staying and told them she had been assaulted, Jividen said, based on interviews he had conducted with people who were there.
Under cross examination, Jividen admitted to inaccuracies in the initial investigator’s affidavit that was filed in conjunction with the charges. Although the affidavit had stated Cercy told investigators the incident “didn’t happen the way you think it happened,” a recording referenced in court indicated Cercy actually said “I heard a rumor this morning but it’s not true.” Cercy had met investigators on June 28 to give a DNA sample when the recording was made.
A sexual assault examination did not show a match for Cercy’s DNA on the woman. She was examined days after the alleged assault, and prosecutors said the woman had showered and urinated in the meantime, making a DNA match unexpected.
The woman reported the alleged assault to authorities on June 28 and was examined on the same day. The woman said she was afraid of reporting the alleged rape to authorities, because Cercy threatened to kill her if she told anyone, Jividen testified.
Jividen said he had photos showing bruising on the inside of the victim’s legs consistent with being held down, but those photos were not presented in court. The woman told investigators he had held her down as he performed oral sex on her.
Mackey said the woman may have bruised her legs when she bumped into a coffee table.
Although the woman said she had tried to fight off Cercy by kicking, slapping and punching him, investigators did not examine him for any physical indications of a struggle, Jividen said under cross examination.
In court, prosecutors showed a short cell phone video of the woman asleep on a couch at 12:33 a.m. June 25, unresponsive to yelling. A man could be heard yelling “hottie” during the short clip. A friend of the alleged victim told investigators the voice was Cercy’s.
Mackey sought to show the woman’s story was not consistent and said the delay in reporting the alleged assault was suspicious. She also insinuated the woman was making the allegations for financial gain, citing paperwork she had received from a civil attorney for the woman’s family.
In making his ruling, Circuit Court Judge Michael Patchen said he did not think that a delay in reporting the alleged sexual assault had any bearing on the validity of a report, citing his experience adjudicating such cases. Patchen also said he did not consider the alleged victim’s statements to be inconsistent. He said it seemed unlikely that bruising on the woman’s inner legs came from walking into a coffee table.
Cercy is free on bond and appeared in court in a gray sport coat and blue jeans. He watched the proceeding from the defense table and did not speak during the hearing.
A well-known businessman and philanthropist, Cercy has invested widely in Casper since selling his manufacturing company, Power Service Inc., in April 2016. He helped his son, Cole, buy multiple downtown businesses and donated $1 million to the David Street Station downtown plaza and $500,000 to Natrona County High School for a new digital scoreboard.