The defense in the trial of an immigration officer accused of raping or attempting to rape seven women played a sexually explicit home videotape in a Van Nuys court Tuesday, prompting a juror to break into tears and attempt to bolt from the courtroom.
"I can't watch this," exclaimed the woman shortly after the start of an hourlong videotape that the defendant, Edward J. Riley, 34, said shows him having consensual sex with one of his accusers at his Reseda apartment.
Superior Court Judge Judith M. Ashmann, who was sitting in the spectator section while the tapes were shown, blocked the woman's exit and the juror then returned to her seat to watch the tape, which the prosecution insists shows Riley having sex with a woman not involved in the case.
Defense attorney Otha Standifer said in an interview outside court that he might move for a mistrial based on the juror's action, "but my thinking right now is that I will merely ask that she be excused and her place taken by an alternate."
Riley, suspended from his post as an Immigration and Naturalization Service agent, is accused of 17 felony counts stemming from alleged assaults against seven Latina women, all of them undocumented immigrants.
On the stand, Riley insisted that the woman in the videotape is one of his accusers. Standifer said the tape, in which Riley and the woman freely engage in sex, discredits her testimony last month that Riley threatened to deport her, then raped her with a foreign object.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Carolyn L. McNary scoffed at Riley's claim that the woman on the videotape was one of Riley's accusers, saying that the prosecution witness he named "doesn't look much like her at all."
But Standifer said he saw "some very great similarities" between the woman on the tape and the woman who testified against his client.
McNary said the woman named by Riley will be recalled to the stand "and she will tell the jury that it's not her on the videotape. That's emphatically what she told us when she saw it."
Riley was arrested in April when a 25-year-old North Hills woman told police that he picked her up on a Van Nuys street by flashing his INS badge.
He then took her to his apartment, threatened to kill her if she cried out and then raped her at gunpoint, the woman testified. Police said that after searching Riley's apartment, they found dozens of identification cards belonging to young women, which led them to the six other women.
Three of the seven, who range in age from 19 to 33, testified that they resisted Riley's threats and were not raped. The alleged assaults occurred during the nine months before Riley was arrested.