The woman sat upright on the witness stand, wearing a polka-dot dress, straight red hair and a resolute gaze as an Orleans Parish prosecutor questioned her about a violent early morning run-in last year at a bus stop on Benefit Street in Gentilly.
She jerked her head and took a halting breath.
“Here we go,” the petite 22-year-old whispered to no one, before recounting to a jury in flat tones how a man engaged her with small talk as she texted on her phone on Sept. 2, 2013, then grabbed her from behind and held a pocket knife to her neck. He led her under Interstate 610 near Dillard University and “made me get on my knees, pull my pants down and he was trying to ram himself inside of me,” she testified.
The man groped and prodded her, licked her buttocks and forced her to perform oral sex, sweating and telling her he would stab her if she made a sound, she testified.
“He didn’t penetrate me. I think it didn’t occur because he was not of a normal size, I guess. I don’t want to disrespect no one,” she said.
“What was going through your mind?” prosecutor Inga Petrovich asked.
“Being brave,” she replied.
The New Orleans Advocate does not name purported victims of sex crimes.
The woman never identified the defendant, David Falgout, through a photo lineup or any other way. Prosecutors with District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office say she didn’t have to. Testing from a rape exam the woman underwent that day matched Falgout’s DNA profile, which had been entered into a database from time he spent behind bars for a similar incident in 1988.
Now 51, with a graying beard, Falgout had been convicted at age 24 of forcible rape. Court records show he approached a woman in the 1300 block of Esplanade Avenue, held a knife to her throat, forced her into an alley and raped her.
In the recent incident, police arrested him in December, and a grand jury indicted him in January on counts of aggravated rape and armed robbery. If convicted, he faces life in prison.
Police said he made off with the woman’s cellphone and $2.50 in bus money. She was headed to her job at Burger King, dressed in her work uniform.
Falgout’s defense attorney, Leon Roche, painted a different picture for the jury, arguing that the attempt at sex was a consensual exchange related to drugs.
Roche suggested the woman needed money badly, and he questioned her over her drug use. The woman denied any, but then acknowledged telling authorities that she smokes marijuana.
“Oh, that’s what you were referring to? OK, yes,” she responded. “I thought you meant something heavy.”
She said she hadn’t smoked any marijuana as she stood at Benefit and New Orleans streets at 5:37 that morning.
The woman gave authorities a verbal description of her alleged assailant but said she couldn’t bring herself to look at photo lineups or to complete the process of developing a police sketch of a suspect.
Neither prosecutors nor Falgout’s attorneys asked her to positively identify the man sitting at the defense table as her assailant, though she testified that she didn’t know Falgout and never agreed to have sex with him.
The trial, before Criminal District Court Judge Karen Herman, is expected to wrap up Wednesday.
The woman strained to remain composed during her testimony, at one point weeping into a tissue.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” she said. “I should have been more aware. I should have been paying attention, not playing with the stupid phone. I’m sorry.”
Follow John Simerman on Twitter, @johnsimerman.