Jury finds ex-Marine guilty in Denver International Airport rape case
DENVER — Noel Bertrand testified last week that he was “surprised” to have been charged with rape after partaking in what he called consensual, public sex in a vacant DIA concourse with a 21-year-old. On Monday, a jury returned a guilty verdict.
After a full day of deliberations Friday, the jury found the former Marine guilty on the charges of sexual assault and submission.
Bertrand showed very little emotion as the verdict was read. His mother, however, was in the courtroom and cried out his name as he was being led away. The victim was not present for the verdict.
“It was in a public setting, it was brutal and it was aggressive,” prosecutor Isabel Pallaras said after the verdict was read.
That was the way prosecutors portrayed the attack throughout the trial, and ultimately that’s what the jury believed. “We are pleased with the verdict in this case,” Pallaras says. “It was a difficult trial, we know the victim is please.”
Defense attorney Wadi Muhahasen feels differently. “We really felt there was reasonable doubt. The time line was not possible. We are disappointed.”
Sentencing has been scheduled for Nov. 30. Prosecutors said they will seek the maximum penalty for what they called a “violent, public” rape.
The decision came after a week of emotionally-charged testimony from the victim — now 23 years old, two Frontier airlines mechanics and Bertrand.
Jurors winced as the victim described the altercation during her testimony on Sept. 19, saying Bertand repeatedly assaulted her from behind as her pants were down. She said she was choked within inches of losing consciousness before the two mechanics arrived.
Mark Adams and Chris Musil pulled Bertrand off the woman, and the airline mechanics testified that Bertrand first appeared enraged before trying to hug the victim.
“He told us, ‘I guess you don’t know the difference between rough sex and fighting,’” Adams said.
Bertrand testified that the sex was not only consensual, but that it took place after his accuser propositioned him at the bar.
“She told me at the bar she wasn’t wearing panties and asked if I liked that,” Bertrand said. “I said ‘yes.’”
When pressed by a prosecutor about why he hadn’t provided that information to an investigating detective, Bertrand responded that he “purposefully withheld that information” to “protect” the woman.
“It was a dominant-submissive type situation,” Bertrand said. “She had two orgasms in five minutes. It was a very passionate time. … I must have misread the situation. Maybe she was submissive because she didn’t know how to respond. Maybe she was inexperienced.”
The prosecution played off Bertrand’s testimony when presenting its closing argument to jurors.
“Her (the victim’s) injuries are completely consistent with what she told you: clear injury that is on half of her behind,” Deputy District Attorney Isabell Pallares said. “Do you think her injuries are playful and funny? She’s not consenting. He (Bertrand) just went too far.”