Judge dismisses most charges in lawyer sex assault

September 2, 2011 7:21:00 PM PDT
A judge Friday afternoon threw out the cases of two women who accused a San Francisco lawyer of sexually assaulting them after they responded to his ad on Craigslist. But the trial of a third reported victim will go forward.

The judge threw out two of the cases, citing a credibility issue, saying that there were just too many holes in their stories. This came after a two-day hearing full of graphic testimony.

"The witnesses just lied; I don't know what else to say about them," defense attorney Stu Hanlon said.

Sex, lies and videotapes with a little sadomasochism and sexual domination -- this case had it all.

The defendant is 50-year-old Michael Hoffman, a labor lawyer who specializes in cases involving wrongful termination and sexual harassment. His accusers were three women who responded to his ads on Craigslist where Hoffman said he liked to degrade and dominate his partners.

All three said he had sexually assaulted them in his luxury condo.

One of the accusers, named Liz, said she had been attacked in June and that Hoffman forced her to have rough sex that day.

But Hoffman's lawyer produced a video that his client secretly took which the judge said showed otherwise.

"It was a video of the alleged rape and it shows it wasn't a rape, it showed she lied in the courtroom," Hanlon said.

Hanlon also poked holes into one of the other women's story of sexual assault.

Vanessa said she was attacked early last month and that she was fondled in a painful manner.

Hanlon got her to admit in court that she lied to police the night she reported the assault.

"She told police, the inspector sitting in court, that she had never had sex with my client before the alleged sexual assault and she also said she never texted him about sex," Hanlon said.

But Hanlon produced more video tapes showing she had consensual sex with Hoffman on at least two prior occasions. He also produced text messages between the two showing that they had a relationship that centered on sexual domination.

The third woman who testified is named Elisa. She says she responded to Hoffman's Craigslist ad not expecting to be beaten and sexually assaulted. Hanlon says she went to his home expecting rough sex.

"This is a woman who sent a picture to my client wearing a dog collar and a leash around her neck and that was her way of saying 'hi,'" Hanlon said.

The judge is allowing the third case to move forward. Hoffman's bail was reduced from $3 million to $450,000.


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