Jury convicts Griego of all 27 counts in serial rape trial

2014-04-14T14:00:00Z 2014-06-11T10:34:34Z Jury convicts Griego of all 27 counts in serial rape trialGazette Staff The Billings Gazette
April 14, 2014 2:00 pm  • 

A 12-person jury Monday convicted serial rapist Toby Eugene Griego of all 27 counts against him, stemming from four home-home invasion robberies, kidnappings and sexual assaults.

The jury of five men and seven women reach unanimous verdicts of guilty on each count at about 2:45 p.m., after about 3 ½ hours of deliberation.

As he did through the entire trial, Griego appeared emotionless as the verdicts were read off one by one at about 3 p.m. Members of his family could be heard and seen sobbing as he was handcuffed and led out of the courtroom.

“Hopefully we have achieved a goal that he can never hurt another woman again,” Chief Deputy Yellowstone County Attorney Rod Souza said after the trial was over. “I hope that brings closure to the four victims here.”

A sentencing date has not been scheduled. Because of Griego’s criminal history in New Mexico, which includes assaults and the rape of a 16-year-old girl, he will face a mandatory life sentence under Montana law.

Griego, who was represented by state public defenders Tom Bartleson and David Duke, chose not to testify in his trial.

The convicted rapist attacked the four victims on Jan. 27, April 25 and May 27 and July 2 of last year.

Billings Police detectives, including lead investigators Ken Paharik and Mike Beckers, said Griego left little or no evidence at the crime scenes, making the case extremely difficult to investigate.

But Griego used his phone to capture videos or photos of all four victims, numerous witnesses testified. Dozens of images and half a dozen video clips from the phone were shown to the jury — including one video that appeared to clearly show Griego’s face during one the home invasions.

All four victims were among the 29 witnesses who testified during the five days of testimony in the trial. All four said they woke to a man in their bedrooms, and that the man bound, gagged, blindfolded and assaulted them.

“This case could not have been made without those four strong ladies being willing to come in here and testify about the worst moments of their lives,” Souza said Friday afternoon. “We needed them in this case, and they did it.”

“I woke up to a hand over my mouth and a knife to my throat and someone telling me not to scream,” the first victim testified last Tuesday.

Three of the women were raped repeatedly with foreign objects and forced to bathe or shower off.

“It seemed to go on forever,” the first victim said.

The second victim, who said she awoke early on April 25 to a man by her bed, said she was bound and gagged, but was able to fight her attacker off.

“I was terrified,” she said, during her testimony Tuesday. “I didn’t know if I was going to get raped or killed or what was going to happen.”

The last two victims testified were taken from their homes and forced to make transactions at ATMs at Billings banks.

Souza and Chief Deputy Yellowstone County Attorney Juli M. Pierce included in the state's 369 exhibits time and date stamped bank surveillance footage showing the last two victims making the transactions on May 27 and July 2.

The third victim testified that she can be seen with blood streaming down her face in some of the video clips.

She and the fourth victim said after being taken to the ATMs they were taken back to their homes and raped again.

“If I tried to look I would be repeatedly hit in the head and he would say, ‘Don't look, don't look,’ so I didn't,” said the woman who was attacked on May 27, during her testimony Wednesday.

“When you’re in your own room and a strange man is violating you, it is the most horrible thing I’ve ever been through,” the fourth victim said Wednesday.

“This is one of the worst cases I’ve ever seen, by one of the most sophisticated offenders I’ve ever seen,” Souza said.

After closing arguments Monday morning, the 12-person jury in the trial of suspected serial rapist Toby Eugene Griego went into deliberation at about 11:15 a.m.

Griego, 42, faces 27 counts in connection to a string of home-invasions, kidnappings robberies and sexual assaults last year involving four female victims.

The Gazette is expecting a call from a bailiff when the jury finishes with deliberation. At that time, court will reconvene and the verdicts on all 27 counts will be announced.

Griego is accused of raping women on Jan. 27, May 27 and July 2 and attempting to rape a woman April 25. All four women have testified against Griego.

“He’s got a right to a trial. He’s got a right to put the state to our burden of proof – and we welcome it,” Chief Deputy Yellowstone County Attorney Rod Souza told the jury as he wrapped up the state’s closing argument.

He had just spent about 60 minutes recapping all the witness testimony and evidence presented in the trial.

The state called 29 witnesses and presented 369 exhibits during five days of testimony that started last Monday afternoon and ended Friday.

Griego had the right to testify but chose not to. His counsel, state public defenders David Duke and J. Thomas Bartleson, did not call any witnesses.

“We satisfied our burden,” Souza said. “It really is that simple. The evidence is absolutely overwhelming.”

The prosecutor had an image projected in the court room for the jurors to see. Numerous witnesses have testified the images were found on Griego’s phone – and at no time in the trial has defense counsel contested that the phone belonged to Griego.

The first image appeared to show the victim in the May 27 attack sitting in a bathtub, her hair matted with blood. The woman testified last week that it is indeed her in the video.

“And this,” Souza said, calling up a second photo: A still image taken from a date and time stamped video a detective said was extracted from Griego’s phone and corresponds exactly to the time of one of the attacks.

The image appeared to show Griego’s face.

“That is the face of evil. That is the face of the man who perpetrated these attacks,” Souza said.

Bartleson delivered the defense’s closing argument.

“It has been suggested that I’m going to ask you to excuse the defendant for a lack of evidence, to excuse any failures in the state’s case because things are missing,” he told the jury. “And that’s not what I’m going to ask you to do. I’m simply going to ask you to hold the state accountable to its burden of proof, of proving each element of each offense beyond a reasonable doubt in this case.”

He argued that there was insufficient evidence to prove several of the charges against his client, including two rape charges stemming from the Jan. 27, 2013, attack on the first victim.

He also argued that there wasn’t sufficient evidence to prove some of the robbery charges against Griego alleging that he stole personal items – such as jewelry, a purse, and money – from the victims during the attacks.

Bartleson argued that for the robbery charges to stick, the state needs to prove that the victims were in fear at the exact time the robberies were committed.

“There was fear that night,” Barteson said. “But it wasn’t the same sort of (fear as) dude walks into a Kwik-E-Mart with a knife and says, ‘give me a 12-pack and all your money.’”

All four victims testified last week they were bound, gagged and blindfolded during the attacks.

“My question to you is, when were they not in fear?” Chief Deputy Yellowstone County Attorney Juli M. Pierce asked the jurors, during her rebuttal to the defense’s closing argument.

Bartleson had also argued that the state made a weak case for charges 19-27, the charges stemming from the July 2, 2013, attack on the fourth victim.

“You don’t have the same caliber of evidence to that you have evaluate with regard to the other victims – the photos and videos of the alleged other crimes being committed – doesn’t exist,” he said.

Bartleson pointed out that detectives have testified no DNA evidence or trace evidence was ever found linking Griego or anyone else to any of the attacks, and that none of the items Griego is accused of stealing from the victims were ever recovered.

Pierce responded by pointing out that the state also had images from Griego’s phone that show the fourth victim watering flowers outside her home on June 26, six days before that attack.

Those images, Pierce argued, coupled with the fourth victim’s voice identification of Griego as the rapist and the myriad similarities between the four attacks point to one attacker: Griego.

As she wrapped up her rebuttal to Bartleson’s argument, Pierce had two side-by-side images project for the jury to see.

On the right: A mug shot of Griego.

On the left: The still image that appears to show Griego’s face during one of the attacks.

“This is the picture of evil,” Pierce said. “This is the defendant. He is your eye witness to the crime. He gave you direct evidence that he committed these crimes. He is your eye witness.”

“Hold him accountable for his reign of terror and find him guilty of all 27 charges,” she concluded.

Moments later, two bailiffs were sworn in, promising not to let the jurors out of the jury room until unanimous verdicts of guilty or not guilty are reached on each of the 27 charges.

Copyright 2015 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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