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Jury hears closing arguments in Salsbury rape trial

  • Convicted rapist Arthur E. Salsbury Jr. listens Thursday during his current rape trial. STAFF PHOTO/MICHAEL CONNORS

Staff Writer
Published: 1/16/2020 5:59:35 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Attorneys gave two contrasting portrayals of events in closing arguments to the jury before it began deliberations Thursday in the rape trial of convicted rapist Arthur E. Salsbury Jr.

Salsbury, 43, of Ware, is being tried in Hampshire Superior Court on allegations that he raped a woman in a wooded area off of School Street in Granby on Oct. 3, 2009 after picking her up in Holyoke. He has been charged with two counts of aggravated rape and one count of assault with a dangerous weapon.

On Wednesday, the alleged victim testified that she had left her boyfriend’s apartment in Holyoke that night to get high when a man pulled up behind her on the street and asked if she was OK. The woman said she had told him she wasn’t interested in sex but was looking to go to Chicopee. She said the man did not drive her to Chicopee, but rather to a wooded area that she did not recognize, where he raped her.

The Gazette does not typically identify victims of rape or sexual assault.

In his closing argument, Salsbury’s defense attorney, David Mintz, acknowledged that Salsbury and his accuser had sex.

“I’m not going to argue to you that Mr. Salsbury didn’t have sexual relations with [the alleged victim,]” Mintz said. “That happened. The government has proven that through the testimony of its experts [and] through the testimony of the DNA evidence.”

But Mintz called into question whether Salsbury’s accuser was telling the truth, saying that the woman’s admitted drug abuse and days without sleep may have clouded her recollection. He also said later that evidence suggested the woman was high at the time of the event, and that she had lied to her boyfriend that night by using money he gave her for drugs.

“We’re talking about the depletion and destruction of cognitive resources that, using your common sense, most likely has a profound effect on somebody’s perception,” Mintz told the jury.

Mintz reminded the jury of the woman’s background as a sex worker, and that the woman’s testimony in the trial conflicted with her initially telling police she waved the car over to her in Holyoke. He also pointed to the woman’s testimony in court that she did not take a $50 bill put on the dashboard by the car’s driver, a detail Mintz said did not appear in police statements.

“I suggest to you that the appearance of that $50 bill is indicative of the fact that this was, in fact, a trade of sex for money. That’s what this was,” Mintz said. “It wasn’t until afterward that it turned into something else.”

Mintz questioned why no witnesses testified that they noticed the woman’s clothes being dirty after she testified that she had been kicked out of the car and onto the muddy ground. He also conceded that there were fresh tire tracks at the crime scene, but asked why there weren’t any footprints or handprints.

“The fact is, ladies and gentlemen, is that [the alleged victim’s] testimony ... is a ship without an anchor. It’s floating around out there,” Mintz said.

Mintz also said there were inconsistencies in the testimony of Granby Police Officer James White and William Menard, a lieutenant with the Amherst Police Department who was the first to call police after the alleged victim came to his Granby house in the middle of the night. Menard’s testimony about what the woman said to him about her attacker’s knife was contradictory, Mintz said.

In her closing argument, Assistant District Attorney Erin Aiello told the jury that Salsbury’s accuser was honest in her descriptions of her life at the time.

“She admitted to those things, she took the stand,” Aiello said.

Aiello argued that the woman’s background as a drug user and a sex worker was only relevant to the initial interaction she had with the driver, when the alleged victim told him she “didn’t want a date.” It was only when the woman thought she was getting a ride to Chicopee that she entered the car, Aiello said.

“I also ask you to consider the fact that she was using illicit drugs and that she was engaging in sex for a fee because it explains the vulnerability that she had,” Aiello said.

Aiello said that Mintz was trying to “distract” the jury with the woman’s background as a sex worker and his insinuation that the incident was “a date gone bad.” Aiello reiterated that the woman testified she did not take the $50 bill and that she was not looking for sex.

She said the woman testified that she felt leaves, not mud, underneath her after being kicked out of the car. She also said testimony from Menard and various first responders, including White’s saying that the woman looked “disheveled,” acted as corroborating evidence to the alleged victim’s testimony.

Aiello also pointed out that a sexual assault nurse examiner testified she noticed injuries during the alleged victim’s evaluation at the hospital after the incident.

“If this was a mutually agreed upon situation, how did she end up in Granby?” Aiello asked the jury.

DNA evidence from when the case reopened in 2018 also corroborated the woman’s testimony that Salsbury had raped her, Aiello said.

Aiello spoke to Mintz’s assertion that the woman lied.

“The evidence does not show any motive,” Aiello said. “What would she get out of lying in 2020?”

Aiello also noted that the woman had described her attacker’s alleged knife in great detail during her testimony. She said that some of the law enforcement officers needed their memories refreshed during testimony by police reports about the knife since the incident happened more than a decade ago.

“This isn’t a matter of that they are not credible,” Aiello said.

Earlier in the day, Granby Police Chief Alan Wishart was called to testify by the defense.

Salsbury was indicted on charges related to the rapes of five women in 2018. However, charges from three of the alleged victims were dropped. Last June, he received a 9-to-13½-year prison sentence for the 2018 rape of one of those women in Granby. Charges related to the remaining woman are pending in this current trial.

Judge Richard Carey presided. Jury deliberations continue Friday.

Michael Connors can be reached at 

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