BY ALLISON LEVITSKY
Daily Post Staff Writer
A jury yesterday (April 23) convicted a man of kidnapping and raping a woman who was found partially undressed the next morning at Greer Park in Palo Alto.
Rodney Taurean Lewis, 35, of Santa Clara, faces a mandatory lifetime prison sentence for the specific kidnapping conviction, kidnapping with the intent to rape. The attack took place on Aug. 19, 2011.
The woman, an Irish national, was in her early 20s and living with a family in Mountain View as an au pair. She met Lewis at the now defunct Rudy’s Pub at 117 University Ave.
The woman arrived at the bar with a man who is now her husband, defense attorney Jim Reilly told the Post. Around 12:30 a.m. or so, when her now-husband was in the bathroom, Lewis approached her and noticed that she was looking for her cellphone on the floor.
He told her that he had seen someone pick up a cellphone earlier. The two started talking and are shown on the bar’s surveillance video talking, taking shots of Patron tequila and touching each other: the woman can be seen kissing Lewis at the bar a couple of times, Reilly said.
The woman testified that she left with Lewis because he told her he was going to help her get her cellphone back from his friend who had it.
Where did it happen?
She blacked out after that. Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Beardsley argued that Lewis took the woman to his home on the 800 block of S. Idaho Street in San Mateo and raped her either at home or somewhere nearby.
Lewis then took the woman to her home in Mountain View, but she demanded to get out of the car when they were driving through Palo Alto, so he pulled off Highway 101 on Embarcadero Road and let her out of the car near Greer Park.
Reilly argued that Lewis drove the woman a short distance from the bar, got off the road and had consensual sex in the car before she demanded to be let out. But Reilly admitted that cellphone records show that Lewis drove north of Highway 92, further north than he said he remembered going.
The next morning, a young girl found the woman at Greer Park, under a blue duvet that Lewis had left with her. She was wearing all her clothes from the night before, but her skirt had been pushed up to her waist and her underwear was exposed.
The girl’s mother called police, and the woman was taken to a hospital for a sexual assault exam. She was found to have Xanax in her system and by 11 a.m., her blood alcohol concentration was 0.18% — more than twice the 0.08% threshold for a DUI.
Prosecutors didn’t argue that Lewis drugged the woman with Xanax, but implied it, Reilly said.
The investigation of the case was slow, Reilly pointed out. Surveillance video showed investigators that Lewis signed both credit card receipts before leaving with the woman, and police were able to get Lewis’ name from his receipt at the bar.
Charges filed almost 2 years after rape
Still, police didn’t execute a search warrant at Lewis’ home until July 2013, nearly two years after the rape. And prosecutors didn’t file charges against Lewis until May 2013, almost two years after the attack.
Lewis initially lied to Palo Alto police Detective Anjanette Holler about having had sex with the woman, but later admitted it when Holler brought up DNA. Reilly argued that Lewis lied because in August 2011, he was dating the woman to whom he is now married and didn’t want to admit having cheated on his now-wife.
Reilly said prosecutors initially didn’t think they had enough evidence to charge Lewis.
The case wasn’t the first time Lewis was accused of rape, court documents show.
In September 2006, when Lewis was a student at Chico State, a woman told the Chico police that three months before, Lewis had raped her after they drank together at his apartment.
She went to the hospital afterward, giving her sister’s name as a pseudonym.
After reporting the attack, she told police that she didn’t immediately contact police because she was “unsure of her role in the incident.”
Six days after making a police report, she told the police that she no longer wanted to press charges.
The 21-day trial was the second time a jury heard the case. In 2017, a jury of seven men and five women couldn’t reach a unanimous decision on Lewis’ guilt. Two men didn’t vote to convict Lewis in that trial.
This time, the jury had seven women and five men. They spent less than a day in jury deliberations, emerging with a verdict around 3:30 p.m. yesterday.
“The jurors who voted ‘not guilty’ (in 2017) basically thought that this was a consensual encounter,” Reilly told the Post. “I have to tell you, the current societal attitude and atmosphere definitely worked against Rodney in this case. I think if we had gone to trial in 2011, it might have been a totally different situation.”
Persky case comes up
Since 2011, the tables have turned for sexual predators. The #MeToo movement has given sexual assault survivors more credibility and shifted norms around sexual consent, and judges now fear being recalled, as Aaron Persky was last year, for giving a sex criminal a sentence that could be seen as too light.
Reilly acknowledged Persky’s infamous defendant in his closing argument, to no avail.
“Rodney Lewis is no Brock Turner. He did not assault an intoxicated, unconscious girl that he found lying on the ground next to a Dumpster,” Reilly told the jury. “What he did was something that hundreds, or perhaps thousands, of young men do every day in this country: that is, he had somewhat drunken but nevertheless consensual sex with a willing, even enthusiastic, young woman.”
Lewis, who had been out of jail on $250,000 bail, was remanded into custody yesterday (April 23).
He is scheduled to be sentenced on July 25. Reilly said he plans to file a motion for a new trial. If that is denied, Reilly said he would file a notice for Lewis to appeal the conviction.