A Long Beach bartender is heading to prison for 10 years for drugging and raping a German tourist who booked a stay at his apartment last year through a “couch surfing” traveler’s website.
State Supreme Court Justice Robert McDonald on Friday sentenced Dennis Edison, 32, after convicting him in August of first-degree rape and first-degree sexual abuse during a trial without a jury.
Prosecutors said Edison put the “date rape” drug GHB in cocktails he gave the 21-year-old victim in his home in November 2015 before sexually attacking her after she passed out.
The Nassau district attorney’s office said Friday the victim had no memory of the assault itself, a side effect of such a drugging, but authorities recovered Edison’s semen after she underwent a rape exam after waking up to severe abdominal pain and repeated vomiting.
Prosecutors said they used forensic evidence along with circumstantial evidence to show during the trial the woman was raped while “incapable of consent.”
District Attorney Madeline Singas said the challenge of proving the first-degree rape offense — under the theory the victim was physically helpless at the time of the crime — was the woman’s lack of recall and the fact that GHB quickly dissipates in a person’s blood and is later untraceable.
But a forensic toxicologist testified that physical disassociation, pain and vomiting are consistent with such a drugging, prosecutors said. They said the victim and her friend, another 21-year-old German tourist, later had reported feeling robotic after drinking cocktails Edison served them.
After the victim’s friend fell asleep, Edison gave the victim another drink, and the last thing she remembered was being led to a massage table in his bedroom before she later awoke with severe pelvic pain and oil on her legs, Singas said.
Without proving the woman was physically helpless at the time of the attack, prosecutors said Edison could have only faced a lower-level conviction that carried a maximum of 4 years in prison.
Singas, whose office sought a 20-year prison term, said she pursued the higher-level conviction “because this woman was raped in a very horrific way.”
Jane Manning, director of advocacy for the New York City chapter of the National Organization for Women, said predators who commit “drug-facilitated rape” must be “brought to justice.”
“We want other district attorney’s offices to notice this verdict and to say, ‘There is a way to prosecute these cases,’ ” she said.
Edison’s attorney, Aaron Goldsmith, said his client plans to appeal the verdict.
“There was absolutely no evidence through toxicology or through evidence found at the scene that would indicate the presence of illegal substances or foreign matter,” the Manhattan attorney said.
Goldsmith said his client, who testified during the trial, said that the sex was consensual.
Prosecutors said Edison initially denied having sexual contact with the victim, then later changed his account after learning about the physical evidence.
Assistant District Attorney Emma Slane read a letter in court from the victim, who said she now is afraid of physical contact and has trouble maintaining close relationships “with anybody on any level.”
In sentencing Edison, the judge acknowledged the man had a history of charitable work and also once had gotten a commendation for saving a young man from drowning.
But McDonald said all Edison’s good work “does not erase or forgive what you did that night to the victim.”