Five women who accused a local lawyer of sexual assault are motivated by "greed, revenge, envy, jealousy and money," a defense attorney said today during opening statements in Franklin County Common Pleas Court. Jennifer Coriell told the jury of eight women and four men that, although the burden of proof is on the prosecution, the defense team intends to prove that Javier Armengau is innocent.
Five women who accused a local lawyer of sexual assault are motivated by “greed, revenge, envy, jealousy and money,” a defense attorney said today during opening statements in Franklin County Common Pleas Court.
Jennifer Coriell told the jury of eight women and four men that, although the burden of proof is on the prosecution, the defense team intends to prove that Javier Armengau is innocent.
She characterized the prosecution’s case as “nothing more than a house of cards” and said Armengau was targeted by law enforcement because of his success as a criminal defense attorney.
Armengau, 52, faces charges of rape, sexual battery, gross sexual imposition, kidnapping and public indecency in a trial expected to last three weeks in the courtroom of Judge David W. Fais.
The crimes he is accused of involve five women associated with his law practice. Two are former clients, two are the mothers of former clients, and one is a former employee.
In her opening, Assistant Attorney General Melissa Schiffel detailed each case. Armengau was in a position of power in his relationships with the women, she said.
The evidence will show “how he controlled these women to prey upon them.” She stressed that the women didn’t know one another.
The allegations detailed in Schiffel’s opening include one involving a Franklin County common pleas judge. One of the accusers will say that Armengau tried to persuade her to perform oral sex on Judge Richard A. Frye in Armengau’s office as a way to help her son’s criminal case, Schiffel said.
Coriell responded to the allegation by assuring the jurors that they will also hear from Frye.
Coriell said the defense also has an answer for an accuser’s claim that Armengau got her pregnant and took her to have an abortion.
Testimony will establish that Armengau had a vasectomy in 1999, well before the woman’s claim, she said.
The woman whose allegations launched the investigation that led to the indictment began testifying late this afternoon and will return to the witness stand this morning.
Catherine Collins, who told her story to The Dispatch last year and was willing to be identified, testified that Armengau grabbed her breasts and exposed himself to her at his S. High Street office in the Brewery District on April 4, 2013, during a meeting about her son’s murder case.
Jurors heard a 911 call that Collins made later that night and an audio recording that she made of a phone call to Armengau the next night. In the 911 call, she calmly told an operator that her son’s attorney “more or less violated me.”
In the call that Collins recorded, she asks Armengau why he exposed himself in his office. “I can’t believe you just said that,” Armengau replies. He doesn’t confirm or deny the allegation during the call. At one point he tells her, “I think you were struggling with stress” and laughs.
The prosecution also plans to present audio recordings of a phone call and a dinner conversation between Collins and Armengau that were secretly recorded by Columbus police detectives.