Witnesses take stand in first day of rape trial

MAYVILLE — A woman who said she was sexually assaulted at a Jamestown laundromat last year took the stand Tuesday in the first day of a trial for a Conewango man.

The woman, who at times had to wipe tears from her eyes, said she feared for her life inside the bathroom of the Marion Street business where she was forced in at knifepoint. The alleged rape by 34-year-old Dennis L. Park lasted only moments, yet the woman said she is still recovering a year later.

“I was so distraught,” she said. “I didn’t know what was going on.”

The woman – who is not being identified because she is the victim of an assault – testified Tuesday that she was washing clothes and blankets July 17, 2018, in the laundromat when she went to a bathroom located inside. When she attempted to exit, she said she was “rushed” by Park, who she said put a knife to her side and forced her back into the bathroom.

She said Park forced her to perform oral sex on him. Afterward, the woman called police.

Park is facing charges of first-degree rape and two counts of first-degree criminal sex act for the July 17 assault, as well as a rape that reportedly took place a week earlier, on July 11, 2018.

The Conewango man is being represented by Chautauqua County Public Defender Ned Barone. The trial is in front Chautauqua County Court Judge David Foley.

In his opening remarks Tuesday, Michael Flaherty of the District Attorney’s Office compared the two alleged rapes and pointed out their similarities. He said both involved Park using a knife to force two different women a week apart to have sex with him.

Barone, in his opening statement, said there was no witnesses to either of the alleged rapes. Furthermore, he said comments made by the woman involved in the July 11 assault had made “inconsistent statements” to police.

“The stories are not consistent,” Barone told jurors. “The remarks, they are inconsistent. They are questionable. … Pay attention. I’m going ask you to pay attention to what is said.”

The first witness to take the stand Tuesday was Jessica Fosberg, the former manager of the Robo Convenience Store and laundromat. Fosberg described being notified by a customer that morning that a woman had been raped. She later made a copy of video surveillance taken from cameras inside the laundromat and gave them to officers.

The surveillance footage, showing the moment the woman walked in to the time police arrived, was played to jurors in its entirety.

Inside the bathroom, the woman testified that Park told her: “I’m raping you. Don’t fight or I will kill you.” Park was reportedly picked up by Jamestown police shortly after leaving the Marion Street business.

The woman is expected to continue testifying today.

Also taking the stand was officer Jay Wadsworth of the Jamestown Police Department. Wadsworth and his partner responded to the laundromat and talked to the victim – whom he said appeared very upset.

Wadsworth said the woman was taken to the police station for an interview before she was dropped off at UPMC Chautauqua.

Flaherty briefly touched on the alleged rape involving Park and another woman July 11, 2018, near a vacant industrial building in Jamestown. He claimed Park forced the woman into having sex with him by holding a knife to her.

Barone, however, criticized the accusation, and noted that the pair had planned to meet again. “There have been several different stories about what occurred between her and Park,” Barone told jurors.

A point of contention in court was the knife reportedly used by Park at the laundromat. Flaherty had planned to bring up the existence of the knife while Wadsworth was on the stand. However, Barone objected, saying it was Wadsworth’s partner who collected the knife, thus it should be him on the stand to confirm its authenticity.

Wadsworth and his partner, who is currently in North Carolina and likely won’t be back until early next week, together put the knife into evidence.

After Flaherty attempted to have the woman identify the knife, Barone again objected to its use in court. Foley said he would look into the matter and make a comment when court resumed at 9:30 a.m. today.

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