San Jose: Ex-cop accused of on-duty rape claims woman came on to him

SAN JOSE — They were alone for just three minutes, but that’s all it took for then-San Jose police Officer Geoffrey Graves to suspect that a drunk woman who didn’t speak much English and had just been involved in an emotionally draining fight with her husband was wildly attracted to him, he testified Monday.

 Offering his version of events for the first time publicly since he was charged with raping the woman, Graves said she sent plenty of signals that she was interested as he drove her, after a family disturbance call, the 1½ miles from her apartment to the Towne Place Marriott Suites hotel in the middle of the night on Sept. 22, 2013. He said the Spanish-speaking woman used words like “fuerte,” meaning strong, and “guapo,” or handsome, which Graves took to mean she thought he was good-looking.
San Jose police officer, Geoffrey Graves, appears at his preliminary hearing at the Santa Clara County Hall of Justice in San Jose, Calif., on Monday,

San Jose police officer, Geoffrey Graves, appears at his preliminary hearing at the Santa Clara County Hall of Justice in San Jose, Calif., on Monday, March 9, 2015. Graves has been charged with raping an undocumented woman while on duty and roughing up a girlfriend. He rejected an offer by prosecutors to plead as charged or face even more serious charges. (Gary Reyes/Bay Area News Group) ( Gary Reyes )
 “She seemed awfully happy, very engaging, the way she kept looking at me,” Graves testified. “I remember thinking, she really liked me and was totally coming on to me.”
 So, after dropping her off inside the hotel, which took another two minutes, he returned about 20 minutes later to “continue the flirtation” in her third-floor room, he said.
 Graves, now 40, faces a life sentence if he is convicted of unlawfully entering the woman’s room with the intent to commit a felony and raping her. He was fired by the San Jose Police Department in September.
 Most of Graves’ testimony came in response to gentle questioning by his defense lawyer, Kristin Carter. But Graves was hammered late Monday with questions for more than a half-hour by prosecutor Carlos Vega, who is set to continue cross-examining him Tuesday.

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When Graves returned to the hotel and said he wanted to speak to the woman again, the desk clerk told him to call her on the house phone. But he declined, and the clerk let him into the secured hallway leading to the rooms anyway, allowing him to surprise the woman.

 Once the woman let him into the hotel room, Graves testified, they made eyes at each other and chit-chatted, even though she spoken only broken English and his Spanish was “horrible.” He didn’t go there with the intent to have sex, he said. That’s a key issue in the trial, since rape carries a maximum of eight years in prison, but unlawful entry with intent to rape carries a life sentence.

The woman initiated the physical contact, he said, when she “grabbed my hand and started kissing me.” She then began stripping his pants off and eventually climbed on top of him as he lay on the bed, he said.

About 25 prosecutors and defense lawyers attended the hearing in the Hall of Justice courtroom, listening intently to Graves’ account.

When Vega got his turn near the end of the day, the prosecutor made it clear he thought Graves was lying.

“You respond to a domestic disturbance call, she’s crying and distressed, she’s in an argument with her husband,” Vega said incredulously, “and just so we’re clear, she’s hitting on you?”

Contact Tracey Kaplan at 408-278-3482. Follow her at Twitter.com/tkaplanreport.

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