The preliminary hearing for a former Huntington Beach police officer accused of 20 felony counts, including rape and sodomy, began last week with his ex-wife taking the stand.
The prosecution and defense questioned former Officer James Roberts III's ex-wife Aug. 12 and Friday in front of Superior Court Judge Richard J. Beacom at Central Justice Center in Santa Ana. A preliminary hearing is where prosecutors present evidence to a judge, who rules if the case is strong enough to go to trial.
Roberts, 34, is charged with alleged acts against his wife, an alleged mistress and another man while serving as an officer with the Police Department. He pleaded not guilty Feb. 26 to rape, forcible sodomy, false imprisonment by violence or deceit, criminal threats, domestic battery, aggravated assault, dissuading a witness and vandalism.
He faces a maximum sentence of 23 years and four months in prison, if convicted on all charges.
Roberts sat at the defendant's table in a gun-metal gray suit and closely cropped hair, watching while his ex-wife testified about a pattern of domestic violence she alleged he committed against her from June 2007 to March 2008.
The Independent is not identifying Roberts' ex-wife because she is a possible victim of sexual assault.
The ex-wife choked back tears as she recalled the alleged incidents of Halloween 2007. The two had separated in 2006 and she had filed for divorce earlier in the month, but Roberts came to the Huntington Beach house in which the couple used to live.
After a confrontation over her texting other people, she testified that she locked herself in the guest room, holding the door handle and using her body to brace the door.
Roberts allegedly broke open the door, hitting her in the side of the face and knocking her down, she said.
She tried again to flee to the room of their son, who wasn't home, but couldn't get the door closed fast enough.
He allegedly grabbed her by her hair, holding her with her back against the wall, she said.
He ripped her clothes off her body before allegedly raping her on the floor of their son's room, she said.
"He told me he was going to get me pregnant," she said. "That we were going to be a family again."
Dept. Dist. Atty. Cyril Yu questioned her about a handful of incidents where Roberts was allegedly violent with her, several in front of their son, during the nearly two-hour testimony.
Defense Atty. John Barnett cast suspicions on the testimony the ex-wife gave and highlighted what he considered to be inconsistencies. He also questioned her motives for bringing forward the charges during his cross-examination Friday.
A number of text messages and e-mails she allegedly sent appeared to show she wanted to re-establish a relationship, including a sexual one, Barnett said.
He questioned why she continued to want a relationship with him, specifically a sexual one, after he allegedly raped her and she feared him, he said.
"Sometimes I would [sleep with him] so he would give me money … sometimes I would do it to be nice to him and give him what he wanted," she said, also adding that there were many reasons for continuing a consensual sexual relationship.
Barnett also brought forward a photograph of the ex-wife with a bruise on the back of her left arm that was given to the Orange County Sheriff's Department as evidence of domestic violence.
The photo was supposed to show the injuries of a July 3, 2007, incident when Roberts allegedly shoved his ex-wife into their bathroom, causing her to hit her head and arm — her right arm, Barnett pointed out.
"If you fell as you said you fell, there would be an injury to your right arm, not your left arm," he told the judge.
The ex-wife testified that she might not remember exactly what happened, but she hit her arm.
Barnett questioned why Roberts' ex-wife also failed to tell officers about the alleged abuse on several occasions and didn't make an official complaint with the police until Dec. 11, 2008.
"I was in a very scary situation," she testified.
She told Barnett she was too afraid that her ex-husband would kill her and her son if she reported the alleged incidents to the authorities.
The preliminary hearing is expected to continue Aug. 26, prosecutors said.