Fort Worth

Former owner of Library Bar testifies in his defense at rape trial; jury deliberating

The jury will resume deliberations at 9 a.m. Thursday in the trial of a former downtown Fort Worth bar owner accused of rape.

Jurors began deliberating toward a verdict shortly before 5 p.m. Wednesday and within a few minutes, they asked to re-watch the surveillance video of the alleged assault.

About 6:30 p.m. jurors asked for information on the standard for reasonable doubt and a transcript of the alleged victim’s testimony. Court adjourned for the night before 8 p.m.

Prosecutors say a woman was passed out at The Library Bar in downtown Fort Worth on the morning of Dec. 23, 2017, when she was raped by Israel Espiricueta.

In closing arguments, Tarrant County Assistant District Attorney Julie Harbin encouraged the jury to re-watch the video.

“She is not moving the entire time,” Harbin said. “The only one moving was him as he’s thrusting into her.”

Harbin reminded jurors the woman testified that she did not remember the sex in the bar.

“She will never know everything that happened to her,” Harbin said. “He was looking for an opportunity and took it.”

Harbin also pointed out the woman suffered numerous bruises and tears in her genital area.

“When she woke up, she was in so much pain,” the prosecutor said.

The woman’s name has not been used in the case. She testified on Monday that she had gone out just for drinks that night in December 2017.

In his closing arguments, defense attorney Chip Lewis told jurors there was no doubt that the woman expressed consent to have sex with Espiricueta.

“We cannot allow injustice based on this evidence,” Lewis said referring to what defense attorneys called gaps in the case presented by prosecutors. “He just ain’t a rapist.”

Lewis said the woman initiated the contacts with Espiricueta, consented and later regretted what she did because she had a boyfriend.

“These are sad cases,” Lewis said. “No one is a winner here.”

Defendant testifies

Espiricueta denied on Wednesday that he forced the woman to have sex.

The 42-year old Austin man took the witness stand to testify Wednesday on the third day of his sexual assault trial. He said the sex was consensual.

“Did you believe it was what she wanted, and what you wanted?” Lewis asked.

“Yes,” Espiricueta answered.

Espiricueta denied the rape allegation Wednesday morning as the jury of 10 men and two women viewed a surveillance video from The Library Bar that showed Espiricueta and the woman hugging, kissing and performing sexual acts.

The video later showed the Austin man walked up behind the woman, who was sitting at the bar not moving, and had sex with her.

The incident occurred after business hours on the morning of Dec. 23, 2017, when Espiricueta was still an owner of the bar.

For most of the video, the woman kept her hands on the bar, laying her head on them.

Espiricueta later can be seen helping the woman up from the bar and escorting her out. The woman told police Espiricueta continued to sexually assault her at a hotel after they left the bar.

An examination at a Fort Worth hospital found that the woman had suffered multiple tears and abrasions to her genitalia.

Espiricueta told jurors the woman was never unconscious when they had sex in the bar.

“No, sir,” he told his defense attorney. “She said, ‘Faster’ when I was behind her.”

Espiricueta testified Wednesday afternoon he performed sex acts on the woman at the bar even after they had intercourse.

He said he drove the woman to a downtown Fort Worth hotel, and checked into a room where they continued to have sex.

For more than two hours as he was questioned by his defense attorney, the Austin resident repeatedly denied he raped the woman.

Defense witnesses testified Tuesday afternoon the woman flirted with and hugged Espiricueta hours before the alleged rape on the morning of Dec. 23, 2017, and the woman showed up with him at the bar again that afternoon.

Prosecutors rested their case Tuesday after the woman testified and jurors were shown the surveillance video.

Israel Espiricueta (black).jpg
Israel Espiricueta

The prosecution’s case

The woman reported the sexual assault to police on Christmas Eve, saying she remembered only snippets of Espiricueta having oral sex and intercourse with her at a hotel after leaving The Library Bar.

But surveillance video showed the sexual encounter started at the bar itself, with Espiricueta positioning the apparently unconscious woman across the bar to have sex with her, according to an arrest warrant affidavit.

According to the affidavit, the woman told officers she had been allowed into The Library at 611 Houston St. after the 2 a.m. closing time on Dec. 23 because she is friends with several employees there.

While drinking at the bar with other employees, the woman said, she and Espiricueta talked, and he proposed that the two “get a hotel room.”

“The victim told the suspect that she would agree to join several people at a hotel to continue socializing but was not interested in joining the suspect alone for a sexual encounter,” according to the affidavit, written by sex crimes Detective A.S. Owen.

The woman told police she continued to drink with several employees but had difficulty recalling the remainder of the morning.

Her last memories included being in the front passenger seat of a pickup being driven by Espiricueta and later waking up on a bed with him making her perform oral sex.

She said she also later awoke to find Espiricueta having sex with her and saying, “Tell me you love me. I want to hear you say it.”

The woman said she followed Espiricueta’s instructions and blacked out again. When she next awoke, she was naked in bed with Espiricueta with a significant amount of blood on the sheets.

“Boy, it looks like I murdered you last night,” Espiricueta remarked upon seeing the blood, the affidavit states.

The woman told police that she left the hotel with Espiricueta because she did not know where her vehicle was parked and hoped he’d take her to it.

Based on the description of furniture she saw in the lobby and its proximity to the bar, investigators were able to determine the pair had been at the Hampton Inn and Suites at 1001 Commerce St., the affidavit states.

Surveillance camera footage from the hotel showed Espiricueta and the woman walking into the hotel lobby at about 6:25 a.m. on Dec. 23.

According to the affidavit, Espiricueta led the woman to a lobby sofa, where she sat down as he went to the front desk.

Twice, the woman slumped forward for a few minutes — motionless with her face resting on her knees.

After getting a room key, Espiricueta helped the woman up, and they left the lobby. A minute later, hotel records show, the suspect’s room was entered.

The affidavit includes this description of the surveillance footage from the bar:

The woman was motionless as Espiricueta took video and photos of her while other people at the bar poked her head and face.

After others left, Espiricueta tried to wake the woman, who briefly sits up but moments later lays her head back down.

At 6 a.m., Espiricueta tries to get the woman on her feet, but “the victim appears as though her body is limp and the victim does not appear to be able to stand on her own.”

He then positions the woman into a standing position with her upper torso lying face down on the bar. As the woman lies unconscious, Espiricueta grabs at her waistline and appears to have sex with her.

“During this action, the victim remained motionless, lying in the same position that the suspect had placed her in,” the affidavit states.

At some point, the affidavit states, the woman’s torso begins to slip downward but Espiricueta lifts her back up.

After a few minutes, Espiricueta steps back and appears to pull the woman’s clothing back up.

At 6:05 a.m., he walks away from her as she remains motionless, face down on the bar.

At 6:12 a.m., Espiricueta is able to wake the woman, helps her up, and the two leave the bar.

“During the victim interview, she did not mention having any recollection of a sexual act involving the victim and the suspect while at the Library Bar on the morning of Dec. 23,” Owen wrote in the affidavit.

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