Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

January 30, 2013

Benson pleads out

Deal made in 2008 sexual assault case

By Janet Jacobs
Corsicana Daily Sun

Corsicana — Although testimony continued Wednesday morning in the trial of Larry Benson, by noon it had fallen apart. Following lunch, Benson pleaded out to a Class C assault. He will have to pay a $500 fine, and respect a “Do Not Contact,” order.

The plea bargain was at the request of the woman who accused Benson of rape, and who has spent a day and a half on the witness stand. The woman is not being named because of the nature of her outcry.

“Based on the direction of the trial and at the victim’s request, the defendant was allowed to plead to assault, and the state is not proceeding on the sexual assault,” said District Attorney Lowell Thompson.

The woman had accused Benson and Albert Krivaqa of raping her upstairs at Napoli’s Oct. 19, 2008. Krivaqa has already been to trial and found guilty.

This case, however, was different. It’s been more than four years, and the woman’s testimony varied from the four previous statements she gave to police back in 2008.

She described an evening of drinking and dancing with friends, first at Black Jack McCanless’, then at Napoli’s. At Napoli’s she met two men and eventually ended up in a bedroom on the second floor. After leaving there in the early morning hours she cried rape. Initially, she said she thought she’d been drugged, but in this trial she just said she felt ill.

The woman had described symptoms of a headache, fever, neck ache, and confusion that night, but in testimony Wednesday morning, she was asked to go into more details. Why didn’t she leave the bar if she felt bad? Why did she speak in Spanish to the two men she met in the bar? If she felt bad, why did she dance with Krivaqa? Why didn’t she phone a friend for a ride? How did she get on top of Benson? If she screamed, why didn’t anyone in the next room hear her?

Eventually, the woman sat in the witness seat with her lap piled high with her various written statements, trying to reconcile those with the testimony she gave Tuesday. By noon, she was evidently done with the matter.

Afterwards, Lewis said the Class C was all they would accept in a plea bargain.

“I just felt like it would be reckless to not accept that,” he said. “I still feel like Larry didn’t do anything.”

The multiple inconsistencies were what eventually wore down his client’s accusor, Lewis said.

“When she made it clear she had not been drugged, that it was the effects of alcohol, and she’d only had two Jack and Cokes and two beers, it didn’t seem to make it very plausible,” Lewis said. “I think her story crumbled.”

Thompson said it wasn’t an ideal outcome, but it was necessary to prevent further trauma to the witness.

“Sometimes the welfare of the victims outweighs my preferred outcome in these cases,” Thompson said.

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Janet Jacobs may be reached via e-mail at jjacobs@corsicanadailysun.com. Want to “sound off” to this article? E-mail: Soundoff@corsicanadailysun.com