Prosecutors said suspected serial rapist Toby Eugene Griego took a cellphone video — showing his face — during the home invasion of one of the four victims he is accused of attacking last year.

During the first day of testimony in Griego's trial Monday, Chief Deputy Yellowstone County Attorney Juli M. Pierce showed the jury still images she said were taken from that video.

Griego, 42, is being tried on 27 charges in connection with a string of home-invasion robberies, sexual assaults, kidnappings and an attempted sexual assault last year. He is alleged to have attacked four victims on Jan. 27, April 25, May 27 and July 2.

After Griego became a suspect in the case, investigators obtained his phone, which prosecutors say had dozens of images and videos taken during the attacks.

Jim Woog, a Billings police detective, examined that phone and testified for three hours Monday about what he found.

Woog, an FBI-trained forensic examiner of phones and computers, testified that some of the 25,000 photos recovered from Griego’s phone contained data showing they were taken on the dates and times of the assaults.

Toward the end of the afternoon, Pierce showed Woog two still images taken from a video she said Griego took during the attack on the third victim on May 27.

As they discussed the two images, Pierce asked the detective the same question: “Does that appear to be the defendant, Toby Griego, in the second video?”

Both times, Woog gave the same answer: “Yes, it does.”

"In your opinion, Detective Woog, is it possible that the images and videos from this phone arrived on this phone in any other way than being taken or recorded with this phone?" Pierce asked.

"I don’t believe that was possible, looking at the totality of the circumstances," Woog said.

The images, some of which were described in graphic detail, were shown to members of the jury on a monitor, which was turned so those in the courtroom gallery could not see what was on the screen.

Woog’s testimony ended at about 5 p.m., after which presiding judge Russell C. Fagg said court was in recess for the night. He admonished the jurors not to discuss the case or seek any outside information about it.

The trial is scheduled to resume Tuesday morning with testimony from more of the state’s nearly 30 witnesses.

The state’s trial brief lists the four victims and two of Griego’s ex-girlfriends as witnesses.

Court proceedings on Monday started at 9 a.m. with the final round of jury selection.

Shortly before noon, legal counsel chose a jury of seven women and five men, with three male alternate jurors, from a pool of 80 people who made it through three days of jury selection last week.

Court let out for a noon lunch break, and then Chief Deputy County Attorney Rod Souza gave a 30-minute opening statement at 1:15 p.m.

The four victims “ … were woken in their bedrooms in the early morning hours by a home invader, all four of them attacked, beaten, robbed, kidnapped and for three of them, brutally and horribly raped,” the prosecutor said.

The women were repeatedly raped with foreign objects and then forced to take a bath or shower, according to charging documents.

“The state will prove to you over the course of this trial all at the hands of one man, the defendant, Toby Griego,” Souza said, pointing to where Griego sat with his counsel.

Griego is represented by Regional Deputy Public Defender David Duke, head of the Billings public defender’s office, and J. Thomas Bartleson of the major crimes unit of the office of the state public defender.

Souza closed his statement by driving home the state’s video evidence of Griego in the act of assaulting a victim.

During his 10-minute opening statement, Duke repeated several times his client is innocent until proven guilty, and that the burden of proof is on the state.

He said several men aside from Griego were identified as possible assailants in some of the attacks.

He also said the items the victims reported stolen were not found at Griego’s home, and that investigators didn't find DNA or fingerprint evidence connecting Griego to the crime scenes.

“As we go through this process, Toby Griego is clothed with the presumption of innocence until such time as you find that the evidence persuades you differently,” Duke said.

The jury is tasked with reaching a unanimous decision of guilty or not guilty at the end of the trial, which is expected to last about a week.

Griego faces 10 counts of sexual intercourse without consent, six counts of robbery, four counts of aggravated kidnapping, two counts of aggravated assault, one count of assault with a weapon, two counts of intimidation and one count of attempted sexual intercourse without consent — all felonies. He also faces a misdemeanor count of surreptitious visual observation or recordation in a residence.

Court records indicate that if convicted of the rape, kidnapping or robbery charges, Griego faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole because of his criminal history in New Mexico.


City news reporter for the Billings Gazette

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