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Appeals court upholds conviction in Long Beach date rape case

The woman had no memory of sexual contact, but a rape exam at a hospital recovered the defendant's semen after she awoke with abdominal pain and vomiting.

Dennis Edison, shown in Mineola on Oct. 14,

Dennis Edison, shown in Mineola on Oct. 14, 2016, testified that the woman he was convicted of raping was awake and had consented to sex. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

A Long Beach bartender's rape conviction has been upheld by an appellate court that nevertheless found expert testimony that the victim was drugged was not enough to prove the case on its own.

Dennis Edison, now 34, was convicted in 2016 of first-degree rape and first-degree sexual abuse after Nassau prosecutors accused him of putting the "date rape drug" GHB in a 21-year-old German tourist's drink and then having sexual intercourse with her while she was unconscious in November 2015. The woman had no memory of sexual contact, but a rape exam at a hospital recovered Edison's semen after she awoke with abdominal pain and vomiting.

Edison testified that the woman was awake and consented to sex.

GHB disappears quickly from the bloodstream, making it practically undetectable. An expert witness testified that the woman's symptoms were consistent with being drugged, but the Appellate Division Second Department in Brooklyn found that testimony unpersuasive.

"We agree that the expert testimony regarding the drug was insufficient to serve as a basis for the conviction," the court ruled. "That testimony was essentially limited to the suggestion that the drug could have caused the complainant's symptoms, and did not supply any basis for concluding that it was the cause."

The appeals court said the only direct evidence that the victim was drugged was her own testimony.

Still, the court ruled that prosecutors didn't need to prove the woman was drugged. They had to prove only that she was sexually assaulted while unconscious. If the trial judge, state Supreme Court Justice Robert McDonald, found her credible, that was sufficient, the appellate court ruled.

Prosecutors praised the decision.

"Drug-rape cases are notoriously difficult to prosecute because the victims have no memory of the crime and because drugs like GHB dissipate quickly from the blood and are therefore untraceable," Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas said in a statement. "In this case, the defendant gave the young woman the date rape drug and she quickly became disassociated from her surroundings. When she woke up she had no recollection about what happened. Fortunately, this brave woman acted quickly and went to the police on a hunch that she was sexually abused. ... This conviction sends a message to women to trust their instincts.”

Appellate defense attorney Randall Unger of Bayside said the decision was baffling and he hoped the state Court of Appeals would review it.

"I didn't understand how they could theorize something without anything to back it up," Unger said. "I'm still shaking my head over the decision."

Edison is serving 10 years in prison.

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