Drunken haze dulls memories in Skaluba case
Key witnesses forget details as sex assault trial continues third day
ALPENA — A drunken, stoned haze may be the best way to describe the condition of some teens who attended a series of summer 2016 parties in Alpena where a pair of alleged sexual assaults took place, according to court testimony over the last three days.
Though one witness testified Wednesday Nick Skaluba had admitted drugging one of his accusers, many of the witnesses struggled to recall the events of those parties. The witnesses often needed their memories refreshed by reviewing past testimony, police statements, or other evidence, such as text messages.
Skaluba, 22, is facing multiple sexual assault charges related to the alleged drugging and assault of two women. His trial before a jury of nine women and five men began Monday.
A third woman has accused Skaluba of assault and is expected to testify, though Skaluba is not charged with assaulting her.
The News does not identify victims of sexual assault.
Another man, Tommy Hein, also was charged in the case and pleaded no-contest late last year to felonious assault, receiving 90 days in jail and probation.
Taking the stand on Wednesday was Shane Dawson, whose parents own the home where the parties were held.
Dawson said that, after one of the alleged assaults, Skaluba told him he had sex with one of the alleged victims because Skaluba gave her Xanax “or something.”
But Dawson was unable to clearly remember most other details. His testimony also conflicted with that of other witnesses, including one of Skaluba’s three accusers, especially in regards to when the alleged incidents took place.
Under questioning from Skaluba’s defense attorney, Dan White, it became clear that Dawson believed both assaults happened on the same night. All other testimony indicates the alleged assaults happened on back-to-back nights.
White let it be known that Dawson — who admitted he was under the influence of Adderall, liquor and marijuana for much of the time his parents were out of town — was mistaken about a lot of what he was being asked to testify about.
“You believe this all happened on the very same night, but did anyone ever tell you you are just dead wrong about that?” White said. “We can’t fully trust your memory, because we have already established that in front of the jury today.”
Dawson said there was a great deal of heavy drinking and consensual sex at the parties. He said he had sex with at least two girls one night, himself. Another female witness, a friend of one of the alleged victims, said under oath that she also had sex with multiple partners.
The morning after the second party, the friend and the alleged victim were exchanging texts about the party. In one text, the alleged victim’s friend referred to the night as an “orgy” and said it would not be good if details came out. A second message said everyone was having sex with everyone.
The pair even exchanged texts raising the possibility about going to another party at the house.
During questioning, Alpena County Prosecutor Ed Black got Dawson to reveal that Skaluba had allegedly confessed to him that he had drugged one of the girls. But Dawson admitted he had never seen Skaluba put anything into the drinks, many of which were being shared.
Thus far, none of the witnesses have claimed to see Skaluba tamper with a drink and no drugs were found at the home when a search warrant was issued. Drugs also were not found in the systems of the accusers.
At one point, Dawson, Skaluba and Hein were in a bedroom, according to testimony. Dawson said he crushed and snorted Adderall in that bedroom and that Hein and Skaluba ingested Xanax. Dawson said Skaluba offered everyone in the room some of the drug, including one of the alleged victims, but nobody accepted.
When he took the stand on Wednesday, Hein said the alleged victim “wanted to try it, but she was too scared.”
Hein said that, weeks after the party, Skaluba told him the alleged victim had changed her mind and willingly taken the Xanax later. Then Skaluba and the woman had sex, Hein testified.
White said Skaluba never hid the fact that he had the drugs and was willing to share them with others. It didn’t seem likely that Skaluba would then use the drugs to incapacitate the girls, because everyone knew what he had, White argued.
During the course of testimony, Black has developed a pattern of how the drugs affect people when they drink alcohol. The alleged victims and others have said Xanax amplifies the effects of alcohol and eventually leads to blackout-type conditions.
White has countered that large amounts of strong drinks caused the women to forget what transpired and they suffered from hangovers the day after.
The trial continues today at 8:30 a.m.
Steve Schulwitz can be reached at 989-358-5689 at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @ss_alpeanews.com.