Accuser testifies in trial of ex-officer
Speaking in a barely audible manner, and prompted several times to raise her voice in District Judge Valerie Robison’s courtroom, the accuser at the heart of a sexual-assault case against a former Grand Junction police officer took the stand and told jurors the suspect made it clear when they first met that he held sway over her future.
“He pulled me aside and said something like, ‘It seems like you’re a smart girl,’ and something about me being in foster care,” the alleged victim testified Tuesday. She’s the first prosecution witness in the trial of 42-year-old Eric Janusz.
That initial meeting — she recalled Janusz was among “two or three” officers called out in July 2000 to a home in the 800 block of White Avenue in response to a runaway call involving her brother — was also when Janusz had a clear indication of her age: She gave him her driver’s license upon request.
She eventually led the officer to her brother, who’d been hiding in a nearby downtown home.
“He was friendly and a little bit flirtatious, but once my brother was around he was just friendly,” the woman testified.
He ended up giving her a business card and wrote his cellphone number on the back before leaving.
“He said if I ever needed to talk about what was going on, or if he could help fix the situation, to call,” she said. “He also talked about me being emancipated.”
“Did (Janusz) seem sincere?” Chief Deputy District Attorney Mark Hand asked.
“At the time, yes,” she said.
It was within a day or two, she said, that she called to take Janusz up on his offer of help after a restraining order was issued barring her from contact with her brother.
Janusz gave her directions to the Police Department’s substation at then-Mesa State College.
The woman’s testimony wrapped up a second day of trial for Janusz, who’s pleaded not guilty to four counts each of sexual assault on a child by one in a position of trust and sexual assault on a child as a pattern of abuse. A conviction on any one of those charges carries possible lifetime imprisonment or state supervision.
Prosecutors will argue Janusz sexually preyed on a powerless woman, who’s previously testified to numerous sexual encounters with Janusz in 2000 when she was 16. She has said Janusz — at the time assigned to the Police Department’s college substation — was in uniform and on the job during the encounters.
Prosecutors are seeking to introduce at trial testimony from another woman who claimed Janusz, during his police employment, made sexual advances toward her while he was on duty and when she was underage in 2003 and 2004.
Janusz left the Police Department in 2006 and went to work for the Grand Junction Fire Department, where he remained employed until February 2012 when he quit in a dispute over workers’ compensation.
Colleen Scissors, Janusz’s attorney, called the woman’s claims “fabrication.”
“You’re going to hear so many contradictions it’s going to make your head spin,” Scissors told the jury during opening statements. “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, and that’s certainly the case here.”
Scissors told the jury Janusz and the woman had been in an on-again, off-again “toxic” sexual relationship that ended in 2011. Shortly after, she reported to Janusz’s former bosses the alleged on-the-job sexual meetings from 2000, Scissors said.
“How do you defend yourself against allegations 12 years ago? It gets tough,” she said.
The woman’s testimony is scheduled to resume this morning.
Janusz’s trial is scheduled through March 22.