Here’s why the investigation into claim a Caltrain conductor raped a passenger was stopped

BY ALLISON LEVITSKY
Daily Post Staff Writer

Prosecutors decided not to file charges against a Caltrain conductor accused of sexually assaulting a drunken passenger because she appeared sober enough to consent on the train’s surveillance video, according to San Mateo County Chief Deputy District Attorney Karen Guidotti.

The 22-year-old Mountain View woman alleged in an October claim against Caltrain that after midnight on April 19, 2017, a blond-haired conductor assaulted her on the nearly empty train when she was in a “brownout” state of fragmented consciousness.

She was heading home alone on the last train of the night after barhopping with friends in San Francisco when the conductor led her to an employees-only area and had sex with her, according to
her claim.

The woman reported having spotty memory of the night’s events. She walked home from the Mountain View station after the encounter and, the next morning, told a relative and the police
what had happened. She also went to the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, where a rape kit showed evidence of vaginal tearing and male DNA, according to her claim.

A detective from the transit bureau of the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office discussed the case with a deputy district attorney in the sex crimes unit, which Guidotti oversees.

When is a person too drunk?

But Guidotti said that when her office reviewed the video, the woman didn’t appear to meet the legal standard for being too intoxicated to consent to sexual activity.

She defined that standard as “where they are literally on the brink of passing out and cannot make decisions, can’t function, can’t take care of themselves.”

“It’s different than a person who makes decisions that they later regret because they were intoxicated,” Guidotti said. “I don’t deny that a person can still feel like a victim because she probably feels that she was exploited or taken advantage of, and she may have been. But that’s not the legal standard that we have to meet.”

If an adult isn’t unconscious, falling-down drunk or otherwise incapable of consenting, prosecutors can only charge a sexual assailant if he or she used force or fear to initiate sexual activity.

“Being taken advantage of is not a crime if you’re an adult,” Guidotti said.

Not reported as rape at first

While the woman alleged in the October claim that she had been raped, Sheriff Carlos Bolanos said it was reported as another form of sexual assault.

Sheriff’s Lt. Al Elzey said the woman had reported being kissed on the neck, groped over her clothing and digitally penetrated, counter to the claim she filed later, alleging the conductor had had intercourse with her.

Detectives investigated the assault over a number of months by interviewing two conductors and an engineer who were on the train and reviewing onboard surveillance video. There was no video of the sexual encounter itself, according to sheriff’s Detective Rosemerry Blankswade.

Investigators sent DNA evidence to the crime lab and entered it into a database to find matches and prepared an application for a search warrant to collect the conductor’s DNA, but Guidotti’s prosecutor told them there wasn’t enough evidence to go before a judge with the request.

The conductor hasn’t worked for Transit America Services Inc., which operates Caltrain service under contract, since the woman reported the assault.

3 Comments

  1. So I guess it comes down to he said vs she said. She said she was raped, he denies it, so it’s over. The lesson is that if you visit an employee’s only area of a train, it’s OK if you’re raped.

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