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Victim says Grand Forks man raped her while she slept

The trial of a Grand Forks man accused of sexually assaulting two acquaintances while they were sleeping last year began Wednesday with one of the victims taking the stand for about three hours.

Prosecutor Andrew Eyre opened the trial with remarks alleging Brandon Wesley Carlson, 33, violated two women in June 2014 while they were asleep.

Carlson is charged with two counts of gross sexual imposition, both Class A felonies, in Grand Forks District Court. If convicted, he could be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison on both counts.

"(One of the victims) woke up to experience what no woman should," said Eyre, a Grand Forks County assistant state's attorney, saying the then 19-year-old victim awoke to Carlson raping her.

The other victim, he said, would tell jurors Carlson had forced her to fondle him while she was sleeping.

The Herald typically does not name victims of sexual assault.

A hair found during a sexual assault examination of one victim was sent to the North Dakota Crime Lab for DNA testing, Eyre said, but no conclusive evidence was found.

Public defender Rhiannon Gorham told jurors Carlson had been falsely accused and asked them to view the witnesses' testimony with an analytical eye. She asked jurors to compare the witnesses' testimony at trial with what they told others immediately after the incident and to question what could be influencing a witness' answers.

Gorham also warned jurors to be careful of holding a "better safe than sorry" mentality.

Shelby Robbins, a friend of the first victim, testified Wednesday she woke up the night of June 4, 2014, to the 19-year-old victim "bawling her eyes out."

At the time, the two women lived together—along with the victim's family—in an apartment next door to where the assault allegedly occurred.

Robbins testified her friend could barely speak and, at first, was only able to articulate she had just been raped.

"She was on the ground folded in half crying," Robbins said.

After she calmed down, Robbins testified, the victim told her she woke up from a "dead sleep" to Carlson raping her.

She accompanied the victim to Altru Hospital the same day to have an examination and to the police station to have a report made.

Victims take stand

Both women who say they were assaulted by Carlson took the stand Wednesday and testified they had been drinking and hanging out at the second victim's apartment the night prior to the incident.

The second woman, who is 27 years old, invited over Carlson, whom she had been friends with for a couple of years, and the three of them talked and drank until they fell asleep while watching a movie. The first woman only knew Carlson from work, though they had never hung out.

The first victim testified she awoke in the middle of the night to her pants pulled down and Carlson on top of her. She said she wiggled out from underneath him as fast as she could and fled the apartment.

She said Carlson never said a word even when she said "stop" after she awoke or when she ran from the apartment.

After she bolted into her neighboring apartment, she testified she woke Robbins up and struggled through tears to relate what had just happened.

Both she and Robbins testified that shortly thereafter they both returned to the other apartment to retrieve the 19-year-old's cellphone, shoes and other belongings, which she had left there in her haste to leave.

Robbins testified she stood in the doorway as her friend gathered her belongings.

Both of them testified they saw Carlson reclined on the couch pressed against the other woman, both apparently clothed, but that they could not see what was going on between them and did not try to find out.

Both said it did not cross their minds to check if the other woman was OK.

"I couldn't get it past me my best friend was raped," Robbins said.

The second victim was called to the stand Wednesday afternoon and testified she woke to the sound of her front door slamming shut and to Carlson forcing her to fondle him with her hand.

The first victim said she later texted Carlson at law enforcement's behest to try to get him to admit to what had happened. She testified he did not directly admit to anything but made references to what happened.

Jurors have yet to hear the testimony of some police detectives, as well as forensic examiners who would have done DNA testing on any evidence sent to the state Crime Lab.

The trial picks back up at 9 a.m. Thursday.