October 21, 2010

UI Professor Denies Sexual Abuse, Assault

Print More
Toshiki Itoh

Toshiki Itoh

This story is part of IowaWatch’s ongoing coverage of the trial of Toshiki Itoh, a University of Iowa Professor accused of sexually abusing and assaulting his lab assistant. Click below to read earlier coverage.

10-21: Fearing loss of job, tab assistant kept abuse secret, she testifies
10-20:
UI Professor assaulted lab assistant many times, victim says
10-18: Two years paid leave, no spotlight for UI professor on trial for sexual abuse

Testifying in his own defense in Johnson County District Court, Assistant Prof. Toshiki Itoh said Thursday he did not assault and sexually abuse his lab assistant as the woman had alleged earlier in the trial.

Itoh, 47, a member of the faculty at University of Iowa’s pathology department, said he never twisted her breast with a paper clip and denied that he ever threatened to fire her. Earlier in the day, Itoh’s wife, Yuka Itoh, said she and her husband treated the lab assistant as a sister who came to their home on the holidays.

Itoh is standing trial on one count of sexual abuse and two counts of assault causing bodily injury on several occasions between Jan. 1, 2007, and July 10, 2008. He has pleaded not guilty.

Toshiki Itoh

During Wednesday’s testimony, the lab assistant charged that Itoh repeatedly punched her in the face and once used a paper clip to twist her breast. She also said he once twisted it until it bled, and that if she refused to let him touch her breasts he would beat her. She said he also touched her genitals after he forced her to get down on her hands and knees.

The lab assistant, a Japanese national in the U.S. on a visa that required her to work in a specialized field, testified that she suffered the abuse and didn’t report it for two years, because she feared dismissal if she complained. He often yelled at her and criticized her, according to her testimony.

Itoh, who said his research focused on cancer, began his testimony in the late afternoon. He smiled at the jury and directed his answers to them. Like his accuser, he is a Japanese national. Even though he said he has limited English capability, he never consulted the court interpreter as his lawyer, Patricia C. Kamath, questioned him.

He testified he hired the lab assistant from among 20 applicants. Itoh said her work performance was normal and that he never threatened to terminate her.

She became unhappy when she was transferred to post doctoral research at his recommendation. He said she cried and would “sometimes yell.”

Earlier in the day, a defense witness, Daisuke Mayuzumi, a pharmacology Ph.D candidate and a colleague of both parties, said the lab assistant once asked Itoh to buy drugs for her, saying they were for an experiment. But Mayuzumi said Itoh did not do so.

Although she had once confided to Mayuzumi that she did not respect Itoh and considered herself a better researcher, he said she never told him that Itoh had sexually abused or assaulted her. He went on to say that he never saw any improper behavior between the two.

On cross-examination by prosecuting attorney Elizabeth Beglin, Mayuzumi acknowledged that he was not around during the time that the alleged assault occurred and that Itoh occasionally raised his voice to the lab assistant. Mayuzumi also said that one encounter became so extreme that later he asked her if she was OK.

Two character witnesses called by the defense described Itoh as honest, hardworking, peaceful and never violent.

The trial will resume this morning.

(Mike Anderson is a senior journalism major at the University of Iowa’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication with a second major in philosophy and minor in English. Parker Smith, also a journalism major, contributed to this story.)