Opening arguments began Wednesday morning in the trial of a former Tiger Transit driver charged with the rape and sodomy of an Auburn student.
Tony Martin Patillo, 53, is being tried on felony counts of first-degree rape and first-degree sodomy. Patillo also faces one count of public lewdness.
He is accused of raping an 18-year-old Auburn University student on a Tiger Transit bus in fall 2017. His attorneys say the sexual contact was consensual.
In opening statements, Patillo’s defense attorney, Jon Carlton Taylor, didn't deny Patillo had sexual contact with the victim. Instead, he argued the sexual acts on the bus were consensual.
District Attorney Brandon Hughes, who is prosecuting the case, began opening arguments by quoting Patillo. “Knocked out, huh,” Patillo said on recorded on video, when he first saw the victim on the bus, according to prosecutors.
The district attorney referenced the phrase throughout his opening statement. Patillo faces first-degree rape and sodomy charges because prosecutors plan to prove the victim was "helpless" and unable to consent to any sexual contact.
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The victim said in testimony she had no idea she was assaulted the morning after the incident. The victim also said that when police first contacted her to inform her that she was a witness to a crime from the night before, she had no recollection.
She said she had three larger than normal mixed drinks at the bar. She remembered getting on the bus and briefly walking into her apartment in Creekside.
The victim also remembered brief physical contact with Patillo. She said she did not want the contact and was unsettled by the incident. The victim said she could not remember any part of the alleged assault.
The victim sent a Snapchat video to friends she made at SkyBar, telling them she was home and safe at about 4 a.m. She said she thought the bus ride took about 15 minutes, but video showed the ride took about an hour.
The judge dismissed everyone except the attorneys, the jury and a handful of others from the courtroom for the video recording from the bus to be played.
The Tiger Transit bus where the alleged rape took place had four video cameras.
Brandon Hughes also referenced accounts from eyewitnesses who passed by the incident. Testimony began Wednesday.
The district attorney said the eyewitnesses immediately knew the victim was intoxicated and that something "didn't feel right" about the situation. The witnesses saw Patillo standing over the victim along the side of Aspen Heights Lane.
Brandon Hughes said Patillo continually changed his story throughout interviews with police. The district attorney told the jury to not just consider how despicable the act was, but to consider what it would have been like for the victim.
“She was so intoxicated, she couldn’t tell him no,” Brandon Hughes said.
The defense attorney said in opening statements that there was no forensic evidence that proves the interaction wasn't consensual.
The defense asked in preliminary motions for a video from SkyBar showing the victim intoxicated prior to the incident on the bus to be thrown out. Taylor said it was irrelevant and prejudicial. The defense argued that the mental state of the victim three hours prior was not relevant to the trial.
“The only way Patillo could have determined she was incapacitated was if he was at the bar,” Taylor said, adding that Patillo wasn't inside SkyBar.
The prosecution said the video was, indeed, important because it provided context of the physical state of the victim during the incident.
Lee County Circuit Judge Christopher Hughes, who is presiding over the case, permitted the video to be shown but said it should not be referenced in opening arguments.
Kendall Davis, who was riding in a vehicle by the scene with three friends, called 911 when they saw the incident. Davis was called to the witness stand to testify Wednesday.
Davis said she saw the victim stumbling in the Aspen Heights neighborhood with a man, who had the uniform of a Tiger Transit driver, following behind her.
“We all made remarks that she looked intoxicated,” Davis said in testimony.
Jordan Knox, who was in the car with Davis at the scene, was also called to testify.
"I just thought something sketchy was going on because the way he was following her and her stumbling," Knox said. "She didn't act like she knew him."
Knox and Davis both admitted in testimony that they had one or two drinks within an hour before seeing the incident.
Austin Michael Hayden, an Auburn Police Division officer who testified, responded to the scene following dispatch.
Hayden talked with witnesses on scene. He said the eyewitnesses, including Davis and Knox, did not appear at all under the influence of alcohol and were able to recall information better than most.
Jasmine Gomez was with the victim at SkyBar the night of the incident.
According to Gomez, she and her three friends never met the victim before the night of the incident. Gomez said they were with the victim from the time they met at the bar until the time they helped the victim onto the Tiger Transit late-night Tiger Ten bus.
Gomez said the victim told her that she wanted to take the Tiger Transit back home and not an Uber, so they complied.
The jury, selected Tuesday, consists of seven white men, five white women, two black men and one black woman. Three of the jurors are alternates and will sit in on the trial but will not have a vote when deliberations begin.
The trial will resume with testimony this afternoon after a lunch break. The trial is expected to last less than a week. James Johnson Jr., the other defendant in the case, will be tried at a later date.
The incident prompted Tiger Transit to add security guards to each night bus.
The trial will continue tomorrow morning.
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