The victim in the trial of a state Department of Fish and Wildlife employee on sexual assault charges took the stand Monday in Thurston County Superior Court, retelling, sometimes emotionally, the story of what happened to her following a staff Christmas party three years ago.
Olympia police arrested Gregory A. Schirato, now 55, in April 2015, nearly four months after the alleged sexual assault occurred. He is charged with one count of second-degree rape and one count of first-degree burglary. He is represented by attorney Richard Woodrow, while deputy prosecuting attorney Megan Winder is presenting the case for the state.
Jury selection finished Monday morning, then the trial got underway about 2 p.m. Winder and Woodrow began with opening statements, and then Winder called her first witness: the victim, who no longer works for Fish and Wildlife.
Winder led the woman through the evening of Dec. 17, 2014, when she attended a Fish and Wildlife Christmas party at Mercato’s in downtown Olympia. Wearing a short, black-and-white silk dress and high heels, the woman said she met other team members at the party. She said she had a cocktail at the party, two glasses of wine for dinner, then went to The Brotherhood bar with three other people, including Schirato.
The woman said she paid for her first drink — Crown Royal with water over ice — then had at least three more drinks before she went home. The group also played shuffleboard, she said.
During opening statements, Woodrow told the jury that the woman had fun playing shuffleboard, exchanging “high fives” with her co-workers. Under questioning from Winder, the woman said she did not recall any high fives.
She also acknowledged that she had had too much to drink, and that she usually doesn’t drink hard alcohol — typically she has just a couple of glasses of wine per week. She also said she shouldn’t have been behind the wheel of her car, but she drove home anyway and had difficulty getting her vehicle into the garage.
After that, she fed her cats, changed her bra, and got into pajamas. She washed her hands, but not her face, and also got a glass of water to keep bedside. Winder asked her what happened next.
“I don’t remember having any time to fall asleep,” she told the courtroom. “I fell asleep hard, but was in somewhat of a dream state, slightly conscious. I felt hands on my back, then they moved to my breasts and I felt my bra unclasp. I felt my pajama bottoms and panties being pulled down.
At that point the woman became too emotional and the courtroom took a short break. She later resumed her testimony.
“I felt I was being fondled,” the woman said. “My vagina was being fondled and something was being inserted into my vagina.”
Winder asked her how she felt being touched.
The woman said she was aroused, but said she also was semi-consicous. She also thought it was her boyfriend and felt pleasure in being touched. But she did not reciprocate and could not see in the dark. When she woke up, she said she felt something was immediately wrong and first texted, then called her boyfriend, asking if he had been there. He asked: Did you bring someone home?
She then checked the house, and nothing seemed out of sorts until she saw broken glass on the floor near a basement door and window. Then she called 911.
The Olympian reported that the detective later received a search warrant allowing him to retrieve the suit Schirato allegedly had been wearing the night of the party as well as a DNA sample. Shards of clear glass matching the victim’s broken window were found on the suit. DNA collected from the victim’s bra is 5.4 quadrillion times more likely to have come from Schirato than from any other member of the U.S. population.
Following the alleged rape, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife hired a law firm to investigate allegations of sexual harassment within the department, where Schirato was a division leader.
The trial resumes Tuesday when Woodrow likely will cross-examine the victim.