UPDATE: Cercy Trial – Day 4 – Psychologist Testifies
UPDATE: 3:30pm – The Tony Cercy sexual assault trial resumed in Natrona County District Court on Thursday afternoon with a psychologist being called to the stand by Assistant District Attorney Mike Blonigen.
Dr. Sherri Vanino is a clinical psychologist from Denver who has worked primarily with sexual assault survivors from the age of 15 and up.
Cercy attorney Jeffrey Pagliuca questioned Vanino’s business history including a law firm, and a companion nonprofit organization, she co-founded to deal with sexual assault among other issues.
Vanino emphasized that she was not testifying about this case specifically, but the actions of assault survivors in general.
There are a number of myths about sexual assault, she said. They include the belief that most perpetrators are strangers, that most times a weapon is involved, and that most victims immediately report the crime to authorities. None are true.
In fact, Vanino said victims are less likely to report the crime if the perpetrator is someone they know or trust.
With college-age women, they often don’t want to hurt people, or are afraid they won’t be believed or will lose friends. So, they often don’t deal with it, or pretend it didn’t happen. They sometimes feel dirty and broken, she said.
The details they relate are often different with different people. Somethings they remember well, and some they don’t. Alcohol and drug use can exacerbate the ability to remember. As Vanino put it, “It is an absolute roller coaster.” She said a lot of sexual assault is about power and control.
Pagliuca made a point of the fact that Vanino is being paid to be an expert witness. He also said, and she agreed, a number of things would cause people to remember some things but not others.
He also argued, and Vanino again agreed, that people who have a non-traumatic experience can exhibit a wide range of responses from flat to hysterical.
Pagliuca then closed his questioning saying her testimony has nothing to do with the Cercy trial, to which she responded, "I don't think that's accurate."
Blonigen again questioned her.
Vanino said she did not conduct an assessment of the alleged victim in this case, nor did she review the law enforcement records.
Those were not her jobs when the prosecution hired her, she said.
Instead, Vanino said she testified to dispel myths about sexual assault and its aftermath, "I was hired to educate the jury about sexual assault."
The Tony Cercy sexual assault trial entered its fourth day Thursday in Natrona County District Court, and a young man who knows both the Cercy’s and the alleged victim’s family was called to the stand.
Cercy is charged with one count of first-degree sexual assault (rape), one count of second-degree and one count of third degree sexual assault on the 20-year-old woman. If convicted on all counts, he faces between seven and 85 years of imprisonment.
The witness was with the group of young people partying earlier on Saturday, June 24.
The group, including the alleged victim, later went to the Cercy house to join that party. He said at some point she fell asleep on a couch, and remained when the group was asked to leave.
He told defense attorney Pamela Mackey they tried to wake her and were unsuccessful. He said he asked Caryl Cercy if she could stay there for the night, and she said it would be fine.
The next morning, he woke up at his cabin and found his phone was dead. He was charging it in his truck when he went to the alleged victim’s family cabin. By the time he arrived, she had returned.
He went there because she had a dog that had been unattended all night. He, the alleged victim and a couple of others talked about the dog making a mess in the cabin. She seemed calm and even laughed a little because of the dog, but didn't talk about the alleged assault.
After he returned to his cabin and retrieved his now-charged phone, he saw there was a call from her early that morning, and a text message that simply said, “help please.” He said he didn't think anything about it because he had just visited her.
Monday morning, he said she called him and asked if they could meet later that day. When they talked later, she told him what happened. By then he said he had heard about the incident from others.
He said she asked what she should do, and he replied a rape kit should have been done sooner. He also advised her to talk to her parents.
He told Mackey her story, “put me in a hard spot.” He said he wanted to believe her, but he is friends with both families.
Then Mackey said she wanted to go to another topic -- the dogs in the Cercy house.
During her opening statement Tuesday, Mackey said If the alleged assault happened, the dogs would have barked. The defense team conducted a test in the residence with the dogs. The dogs would have barked louder than a smoke alarm if they so much as heard the alleged victim slap Cercy when he supposedly was on top of her.
The young man told Mackey that Caryl has three dogs and another one at the cabin belonged to a friend of the family. Caryl takes her dogs everywhere, he said.
He recalled seeing at least two of them among the crowd of about 20 of his peers on the deck of Cercy's lake house.
One comment brought an objection from Blonigen, which was sustained, and both lawyers approached Judge Daniel Forgey’s desk for a private conference, during which Mackey was obviously very animated.
At that point, Mackey dropped the dog discussion and asked the witness if he could be fair in his comments given his friendship with both parties. He said he could.
When it was Blonigen’s turn to cross-examine, he went back to the subject of the dogs.
He asked again if their dogs were present in the main room where the party was going on, and the witness said, yes. Blonigen asked if they were barking, and the witness said no. He asked if the room was loud, and again, the witness said yes. He asked if Tony Cercy was loud, and the witness said yes.
The trial resumes at the Townsend Justice Center, 115 N. Center St., at 8:30 a.m. Friday