Cercy Trial: Prosecution, Defense Present Closing Arguments
The third-degree sexual assault trial of Casper businessman Tony Cercy has been about the courage of his alleged victim who was willing to testify on the witness stand, Natrona County District Attorney Mike Blonigen told a jury Tuesday morning.
Trials rarely produce such "black and white" choices as this one, Blonigan said.
The jury's decision boils down to whether the prosecution has proved its case beyond a reasonable doubt to convict Cercy -- who is presumed innocent -- and whether justice will prevail, Blonigen and defense attorney Jeffrey Pagliuca said.
The case went to the jury about noon Tuesday.
On the night of June 24-25, 2017, Blonigen said the then 20-year-old woman was intoxicated, passed out on the couch in the living room of Cercy's former house at Alcova Lake, and was awakened by him about 3 a.m. with most of her clothes off and him performing oral sex on her, Blonigen said during his closing argument on the seventh day of the trial at the Hot Springs County Court House.
He told her he had been trying to "'wake you up with my tongue and my d---,'" fights him off, gathers her clothes, makes about 40 calls to friends, walks out the house, Cercy pulls up in his side-by-side ATV, and gives her a ride to near a friend's trailer and drops her off.
She didn't report the incident for three days until her father receives a message that something horrible happened to his daughter that weekend, Blonigen said.
On the contrary, Cercy's defense attorney Jeffrey Pagliuca responded in his closing argument. "It's an unbelievable fantastical allegation."
This was about a drunk woman who was angry at her boyfriend, ditches him, passes out, wakes up in a dark room, realizes she's in Cercy's house, sneaks out, makes multiple phone calls in vain, feels angry and abandoned, walks three-tenths of a mile to a friend's trailer, and "works (her)self into being hysterical," Pagliuca said.
After she gets to the trailer, she beings telling inconsistent versions of a story about the alleged assault, rejects offers to be taken to Casper for a medical exam and a police report, changes her story again telling people maybe she was just drunk, and then getting a call on June 28 from Cercy -- who was put on speakerphone with her father -- about getting the story straight.
By then, she was in too deep, she couldn't retract her stories, and Cercy's legal nightmare began, Pagliuca said.
Pagliuca and Blonigen said science supported their arguments and undercut the other's arguments.
Blonigen said while not conclusive proof, the discovery of Cercy's and the alleged victim's DNA on the same area as where she said the assault happened is strong evidence, as is the analysis of two 1.5-second-long audio segments on his iPhone at the time -- 3:46 a.m. -- about when he took the alleged victim to a friend's trailer, and that the alleged victim's iPhone health app would have recorded more than 700 steps from his house to the trailer if she had walked.
Pagliuca derided those arguments as "junk science."
For example, if Cercy had removed her clothing including the very large hoodie she was wearing as well as her very tight jeans, his DNA would have been on it, Pagliuca said. The prosecution didn't test her clothing because they knew his DNA would not have been on it, just like it wasn't on her underwear, he added.
The defense presented it's evidence in the experiment if the dogs in the master bedroom would have barked if the assault occurred as she alleged, Pagliuca said.
But Blonigen said the experiment, while conducted by very qualified people, did not have credibility because other experiments about sound in the house and the dogs were not conducted.
Pagliuca said some of the prosecution's witnesses, such as sexual abuse clinical psychologist Dr. Sheri Vanino did not have the academic credentials like defense witness Dr. William O'Donohue.
But Blonigen impeached defense witnesses such as Caryl Cercy's friend Tawni Moore who admitted she lied about seeing the alleged victim on the couch at 6:30 a.m.
Finally, both attorneys appealed to the jurors' sense of patriotism.
Pagliuca asked them to recall when they said the Pledge of Allegiance when the trial began, and noted its last line about "and justice for all," which means the jury must tell the prosecution's evidence is not good enough. "The real story is that Mr. Cercy has been wrongly accused."
Blonigen responded that the jury's duty in "and justice for all" means recognizing the alleged victim came forward and she deserves justice, too.