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Nineteen-year-old Samuel Coffey of Dover walks out of a courtroom Wednesday during a break in his sexual assault trial in Strafford County Superior Court. (Mike Lawrence)

Defense challenges victim in Dover sex assault trial

DOVER — A public defender questioned the female teen who said Samuel Coffey, 19, raped and choked her, suggesting her choices and actions indicated more willingness to participate in what occurred than she has acknowledged.

“Let’s be clear about how this started. It started with your conversation on Facebook,” and you agreeing to hang out with Coffey and get drunk, public defender Sarah Landres said to the teen on Wednesday, the second day of Coffey’s trial in Strafford County Superior Court.

Coffey faces 16 charges, including eight counts of aggravated felonious sexual assault, for allegedly forcing the teen to drink alcohol and then raping and choking her after picking her up near her home following a Facebook chat on the night of Dec. 16, 2012. Coffey had just turned 18 and the alleged victim was 16. She and Coffey went to high school together and had met through an extracurricular activity.

According to Facebook chat messages between Coffey and the teen displayed in court, the teen told Coffey on Facebook that people had said she was “extremely fun” when she was drunk, and she was hoping to sneak out of her house later that week after her parents had gone to bed.

When Coffey asked her, “What can you handle for alcohol?” the victim replied, “Anything,” according to chat messages.

Landres asked the teen why she agreed to let Coffey pick her up shortly after that conversation and get her alcoholic drinks if, as she testified Tuesday, she knew that she would have been uncomfortable drinking alone with him.

“I didn’t think he was serious about it. So I was going along with it, joking,” the teen said.

Deputy County Attorney Alysia Cassotis asked the teen Wednesday if alcohol actually was the reason she agreed to hang out with Coffey that night. The teen said it wasn’t.

“At the time, I liked making new friends,” she said. She testified she was looking for friends and hadn’t seen any warning signs of dangerous behavior by Coffey.

On Tuesday, the teen said that after Coffey drove her down a wooded trail next to Willand Pond and the Winchester Arms residential development, they talked about camping and Coffey mentioned that he always kept a rifle in his truck.

That made her nervous, the teen said, indicating it might have affected her response when he demanded she drink several beers and later, she alleged, began sexually assaulting and choking her.

“(Coffey) didn’t show or point a weapon at you, he didn’t grab you, and he didn’t hurt you,” Landres countered. “He didn’t hold your head back and pour a beer down your throat — that didn’t happen.”

The teen said, “No.”

Landres also pressed the teen on discrepancies between her initial and later accounts of the incident, such as how she later didn’t recall telling nurses at Wentworth-Douglass Hospital in Dover that night that Coffey had performed CPR and “rescue breathing” on her after she blacked out.

Coffey also is charged with four counts of felonious sexual assault and one count each of second-degree assault, simple assault, unsworn falsification and prohibited sales, for allegedly providing the teen with alcohol. Conviction on each count of aggravated felonious sexual assault could result in 10 to 20 years in prison and a $4,000 fine.

The charges of felonious sexual assault and second-degree assault are Class B felonies, each with a sentence of up to seven years in prison and a $4,000 fine. Simple assault, unsworn falsification and prohibited sales are Class A misdemeanors, each with a sentence of up to a year in jail and a $2,000 fine.

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