A 35-year-old woman testified Monday that pop singer Rick James and his girlfriend beat her unconscious in their room at a posh West Hollywood hotel, then revived her with water to beat her again.
“It seemed they were just getting their kicks out of beating someone,” said Mary Sauger, of West Hollywood, who has filed a lawsuit against James seeking unspecified damages for her injuries.
Sauger’s testimony came in the second week of the San Fernando Superior Court trial of James, who is charged with 15 felony counts stemming from two separate incidents that allegedly occurred 17 months apart.
At one point during Sauger’s testimony, James dozed off while sitting in court, and began snoring audibly. After a brief conference, Judge Michael R. Hoff called a 10-minute recess to allow James to revive himself.
James’ lawyer explained that the singer was suffering from a slight case of bronchitis, which, combined with the pressure of the trial, has made it difficult for him to sleep at night.
James, 45, faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted on all charges, which include assault with a deadly weapon, aggravated mayhem, torture, forcible oral copulation, false imprisonment and kidnaping.
James’ girlfriend, Tanya Anne Hijazi, had been charged with similar offenses, but earlier this month she pleaded guilty to a single count of assault with a deadly weapon.
Hijazi is scheduled to be sentenced to four years in prison on Sept. 21.
The first incident allegedly occurred in July, 1991, at the singer’s former home in the Hollywood Hills above Studio City. A 26-year-old woman testified last week that after nearly a week of nonstop cocaine smoking, James tied her naked to a chair and tortured her with a hot knife and cocaine pipe. The woman said that James then forced her to have oral sex with his girlfriend before all three had sex.
Sauger testified Monday that on Nov. 2, 1992, James and Hijazi invited her to their room on the 11th floor of the St. James’s Club hotel to discuss a recording label he had established.
Sauger said she arrived at the hotel about 10 p.m., she drank wine with the couple and took one “hit” of cocaine. About 2 a.m., James and Hijazi began arguing, and she left the room.
Sauger said she entered an elevator, closed her eyes and rested her head against the wall briefly as the door closed. She said when the elevator doors opened, she was back on the 11th floor and Hijazi was waiting for her.
She said Hijazi was apologetic and asked Sauger to return to the room. There the three began discussing business again, when Hijazi briefly left and returned wearing only her panties.
Sauger said Hijazi tried to distract James, but did not prevail. The three began talking about musicians on tour and how the wives or girlfriends of performers often are harassed by other musicians.
Sauger said Hijazi suddenly became angry and began slapping her repeatedly. She said James joined in the beating until she lost consciousness. Water was thrown on her to revive her, and the two again slapped her about the face for several hours.
“I still have problems with my left eye,” she testified. “There is constant throbbing behind the socket.”
She said after the beatings, James walked her downstairs to another room on the eighth floor. There, she said James fell asleep. After a few hours, Hijazi said she could leave. Hijazi called a cab for Sauger about 7:30 p.m. and gave her $5 to pay for the fare, Sauger testified.
Even though her left eye was swollen closed and her right eye nearly so, Sauger said she did not seek medical attention until two days later, after speaking with a friend who is an attorney.
Sauger said that in the days after the alleged incident, Hijazi left phone messages saying James would pay Sauger money if she did not report the incident to police.
Sauger said she did not return the calls.
Outside the courtroom, James’ attorney, Mark J. Werksman, suggested that only Hijazi had struck Sauger.