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Anatomy Of a Trial: An imperfect, but resilient, witness



Posted with permission from Notable Trials


Victim and witness SA held up OK under brutal cross-examination by defense attorney Charles Smith. She must come back Tuesday for more of the same.

The tepid prosecutor John Vacek ended his questioning just before the afternoon the noon break in People v. Joseph Patrick Griesa.

Smith came on strong, showing enough sympathy for witness SA so as not to alienate the jury, but not much more.

He immediately launched into the out-of-court settlement SA almost reached.

“You were going to get $100,000,” Smith said, implying that she was fabricating her story in her sex offense against case Mitchell Towing Service company manager Joseph Griesa upon the advice of her attorneys.

“The only thing they told me was to tell the truth,” prosecution witness SA replied.

There followed a grueling afternoon of Smith grilling SA. She generally held up under the questioning. Her memory failed from time to time and by late in the day she was visibly flagging. She asked for what appeared to be a restroom break about 4 p.m.

During the questioning, more details on what Griesa allegedly did. Suffice to say, he allegedly would call SA – 16 at the time – into his office, fondle her, pull down his gym shorts and jerk off. Griesa is reportedly in his mid-40s.

Smith showed no lack of energy in questioning SA over the details of her complaint against Griesa. He went into the photos she had of herself and of a facial bruise, the cell phone records, her previous testimony and other details.

A photo of her taken of her Oct. 26, 2007 showed no bruise, but the one taken of her shortly after that did, according to SA.

Smith challenged that by questioning the California Department of Motor Vehicles photo taken of SA and the plausibility of the follow-up photo provided of the bruise.

Frankly, as a spectator, the bruise photo of the bruise was so close up that it was impossible to know if it was taken of SA, or someone else.

“I alone can say it’s me,” Smith noted.

How was the picture taken, Smith wondered? She took it herself using a digital camera and using a bathroom mirror.

Where was the original film? It was on a simcard a toddler somehow got hold off and it disappeared, SA said.

Smith later got into why her family members didn’t notice all the bruises that peppered her body.

She wore long sleeves, SA said.

It got more intense.

Smith moved on to the incidents in which defendant Joseph Vacek allegedly sexually accosted SA. They involved touching, exposing himself, masturbating in his towing truck office and one strange incident in which he was a supposed to have transported a drunk SA to a Township countryside location, raped her and then transported her back to the office.

Defense produced photos of the physically layout of the dispatch office and Griesa’s private office.

If the incidents took place, how could they have gone unnoticed by co-workers and why didn’t SA shout out, Smith wondered?

These “sexual attacks (allegedly) took place when others were present, including Robert Griesa (the defendant’s father) were only 10 yards away,” Smith asked.

Smith furthermore warned SA that cell phone records would shout where she and the defendant were when suggestive text messages were recorded.

“You know we can subpoena your phone records,” the aggressive questioner, Smith, said.

He also asserted that records would show that SA initiated cell and text messages with Griesa.

One of the claims defense makes is that Griesa was out of town when some of the sexual offenses SA alleges took place and credit card records will show that.

“Not even feasible, you know that,” Smith said in his vigorous cross examination.

If SA was getting suggestive cell phone calls and text messages, why didn’t she just ignore them, rather than respond to them, Smith asked.

SA said she was afraid not to, because Griesa had mad threats against her and her family.

OK, Smith reasoned, then why did she take side jobs with Griesa cleaning houses and as a greeter at his poker games with police officers?

She was afraid, she said.

Smith got more detailed, asking more questions about when these in-the-boss’s-office sexual encounters took place.

Did they all take place in his office, how often, how many times, etc., Smith asked?

“Not every weekend, but frequently,” SA said.

Not all of the alleged offenses came out in the police report compiled by Marysville Police Department detective Randall Elliott, Smith noted.

Griesa claimed to be tight with the cops and she did not want to reveal all to them out of fear of retaliation, SA said.

Smith also wondered why SA would respond to cell phone calls from Griesa.

You’re phone had caller ID and you knew that “if I picked it up, I’d get molested,” so why did you just ignore the call, Smith wondered.

But, “He would call and you would show up.” Smith said.

Smith also interrogated SA on an alleged event in which Griesa allegedly drugged her, put her in his black Hummer, transported her to a remote area in the Township are south of Yuba City, exposed himself, exerted “pressure on her rectum” and then drove her back to an apartment, all in broad daylight.

Smith then got into an incident in which two teenage runaway girls, 14 and 15 years old, spent most of the night at Griesa’s home but were transported to the Mitchell Towing Service office.

SA asked why they were there. Griesa told her to say they were there for “training.” When the cops showed up looking for them, that’s what she did.

The cops didn’t believe her and one patrolman called her a liar. She knew something about the patrolman’s background, swore at him and reminded him that he had previously been bounced out of the Yuba County Sheriff’s Office.

She called Griesa and asked him what to do. He said, essentially, go with the flow.

The insulted officer yanked her downtown and booked her on minor charges. Charges were later dropped.

In the contest of that incident, Smith said in his question, so “When someone something you don’t like, you say bad things about them.” This clearly implied to the jury that the bad things SA was saying about Griesa were done out of revenge.

Interestingly, SA, who was close to or at tears while under prosecution questioning, held up fine while being quizzed by the defense.

The trial of People v. Joseph Patrick Griesa resumes Tuesday.

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