ST. JOSEPH — The alleged victim was expected to take the witness stand this morning in the trial of a man accused of assaulting her several times.
Antonio Lucas of Benton Harbor is on trial in Berrien County Trial Court on several charges. He faces up to life in prison if convicted as charged. Earlier this month he turned down a plea deal that offered all remaining charges to be dismissed if he pleaded guilty to one 15-year felony.
Lucas is charged with four counts of varying degrees of criminal sexual conduct, eight counts of varying degrees of assault, two weapons charges and one count of possession of a firearm by a felon.
During jury selection in Judge Angela Pasula’s courtroom Tuesday, several potential jurors were dismissed after telling the judge and lawyers that they would, before hearing any evidence, presume guilt based merely on the number of charges.
Berrien Assistant Prosecutor and Chief Trial Attorney Jeffrey Taylor said the alleged incidents happened between April 9 and June 26, 2018. In his opening statement to the jury, Taylor said Lucas and the alleged victim had at one time been in a romantic relationship but she was trying to end it. He told the jury they will hear from the alleged victim the reasons she did not immediately report the alleged attacks.
Taylor also said in his opening statement that the various physical assaults involved Lucas choking the woman and threatening her with a box cutter, a lit cigarette and a handgun.
In her opening statement, Assistant Public Defender Stephanie Farkas told the jury the alleged victim is lying because she became angry that Lucas was seeing other women.
“Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. We’ve all heard that phrase. Mr. Lucas is living it,” Farkas said. “We’re here because (the victim) lied. This case is about jealousy, anger and manipulation. They were back and forth, on and off, and they couldn’t stay away from each other. The fact that he was seeing other women made her angry.”
Farkas said Lucas was on GPS tether and, in July 2018, was about to be released from that. That is when the alleged victim contacted his parole officer and claimed he had assaulted her, Farkas said. She said the woman contacted the parole agent on June 27 and went to the police on June 28. At that time, she reported one incident, and later claimed there were others, Farkas told the jury.
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