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Sauer rape case shaping up as a marathon affair

It’s taken more than a year for Richard Lynn Sauer’s July 2000 rape case to get to trial, and it looks like the trial itself is going to last for a similarly lengthy two weeks or more.

Sauer, a convicted rapist who now faces a second charge of first-degree rape with a deadly weapon, has been on trial since Monday. As of Friday, the jury — which took a full three days to select — was still hearing the first batch of witnesses presented by the prosecution. If all goes well, the defense is expected to get its turn sometime next week.

Sauer, a 26-year-old Port Orchard man, is accused of persuading a 20-year-old newspaper delivery woman into giving him a ride home from South Park Village Center in the early morning hours of July 31, 2000. When she agreed, he allegedly directed her to a dirt road named Sleepy Hollow Court — located just off Long Lake Road between Mile Hill Drive and Sedgwick Road.

When she stopped to let him out at an overgrown driveway at the end of the road, he allegedly grabbed a knife she used for cutting open newspaper bundles, forced her to undress, and raped her multiple times over the course of an hour. He also allegedly punched her, poured alcohol over her and smashed the empty bottle against the side of her head.

According to the prosecution, Sauer then threw the victim’s clothes into an impenetrable blackberry thicket, threatened to kill her if she followed him, and drove away in her car, leaving her stranded.

In the victim’s testimony before the jury Thursday, she described feeling terrified and horrified by what Sauer allegedly did to her. She even said she eventually became afraid to look him in the face.

“He was telling me to tell him that I liked it and I wanted it,” she said. “I was doing pretty much anything he wanted to so he wouldn’t hurt me ... what was going through my head was, ‘Don’t look at him and he’ll let you live.’ ”

After the attack was over, the victim eventually got help from a family that lives on Sleepy Hollow. The family, members of which also testified Thursday, said they were awakened the morning of the incident by a stark naked girl banging on their door and screaming for help. After hearing what happened, they gave her clothes to wear and called an ambulance on her behalf.

“She was trembling,” the mother told the jury. “We sat there and we prayed and I asked God to help her through this ordeal.”

The victim went through the usual rape victim examinations at Harrison Hospital and a “rape kit” of the evidence found during that exam was collected. However, because the victim had never met her attacker before and he didn’t show up in any police records over the next several years, the case went cold.

Sauer was finally linked to the 2000 rape after he was arrested for another rape — this one in June 2002. The June victim knew Sauer — he was dating her sister at the time — and Sauer was quickly arrested after the attack. The DNA sample taken from Sauer at that time was sent to the same state lab that the 2000 victim’s rape kit had been sent to and was found to be an exact genetic match.

Kitsap County Deputy Prosecutor Stan Glisson told the jury on Thursday that the chances of someone other than Sauer sharing that exact match was “8 quadrillion to one.”

Later, when she was invited to go to Sauer’s arraignment, the victim said she immediately picked Sauer out of the 11 other defendants being arraigned that day.

“I saw him and I knew,” she said. “I could feel it in my whole body that it was him. It was almost an overwhelming feeling — I don’t know if it was fear or what.”

The jury, however, was not allowed to hear testimony regarding the victim’s identification of Sauer. That information will be suppressed during the trial, according to a ruling by presiding Judge Russell W. Hartman.

After a lengthy series of briefs and arguements from both lawyers, Hartman concluded the identification was inadmissible because the fact that Sauer was in jail togs and handcuffs at the time created an “inadmissably suggestive” environment. Essentially, that means the victim couldn’t identify Sauer as a criminal because he looked too much like a criminal already when she saw him.

The jury will also not hear about Sauer’s standing rape conviction.

Although the facts of the two crimes were similar — Sauer threatened his 2002 victim with a screwdriver and told her he would kill her children if she resisted — the judge ruled that because the 2002 rape happened after the alleged 2000 rape, it could not be considered evidence of prior criminal tendencies. The timing of the two rape prosecutions, where the later rape was tried just before the earlier, also means Sauer, if convicted, will not be eligible for the two-strikes sex offender mandatory sentencing requirements.

If Sauer had been prosecuted for the 2000 rape and convicted, and then committed the 2002 rape, under state law he would be sent to jail for life without the possibility of parole. As it stands, Sauer is only eligible for a maximum sentence of life in prison, albeit potentially on top of his standing 30-year sentence for the other rape conviction. Regular life sentences, unlike two- or three-strike sentences, typically come with the possibility of parole.

As it now appears, the defense’s case hinges on discrepancies between the victim’s original description of her attacker and Sauer’s physical characteristics. Sauer’s defense attorney, Larry Knappert, claims the victim’s official police statement talks about an attacker who is too short to be Sauer and doesn’t share Sauer’s body features with regard to facial and body hair and circumcision. The victim, Knappert said, told police her attacker was clean shaven and about 5 feet, 7 inches tall.

“We will prove to you that Mr. Sauer had a goatee at the time ... that he is six-foot-one,” Knappert said.

On the prosecution’s list of witnesses is the laboratory technician who first made the connection between the two rapes and the police officers who investigated the case. The defense is expected to call Sauer’s mother as a witness, among others.

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