October 25, 2010

Attorneys Make Final Arguments in Itoh Case, Verdict Expected Tuesday

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.

10-23: ‘Irritated’ Judge halts trial as UI Professor claims self defense
10-22: UI Professor denies sexual abuse, assault
10-21: Fearing loss of job, lab 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

In the last day of Toshiki Itoh’s exhausting trial for sexually and physically assaulting his lab assistant, the attorneys made their closing arguments and sent the jury out of the courtroom to begin a deliberation process that will continue tomorrow.

Referring to a PowerPoint display of photos of the lab assistant’s bruises and statements of apparent admission by the defendant, prosecuting attorney Elizabeth Beglin asked the jury to find Itoh guilty on all counts.

The charges, to which Itoh has pled not guilty, are one count sexual assault in the third degree and two counts physical assault causing bodily injury.

“There is absolutely no doubt Dr. Itoh committed sex acts against [his lab assistant],” Beglin said.

Toshiki Itoh

Toshiki Itoh

She detailed the agonies she said the lab assistant endured while employed by Itoh in the UI pathology department, as well as those suffered through a long and often humiliating judicial process. All the while, Itoh stared unblinkingly at the screen from his seat at the defense table, his hands in his lap and head bent at an angle, an almost peaceful look in his eyes.

“There her left ear, red and swollen,” Beglin said, indicating photographs as they appeared on the screen, “There’s the bruise on her abdomen, which Dr. Graber said could be consistent with someone being kicked or shoved into a desk.”

Mark Graber is a physician at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics who testified last week in Itoh’s trial. He examined the lab assistant shortly after she called the police on July 10, 2008.

Beglin also addressed the lab assistant’s concern for her job and fear that if she reported Itoh, she would lose her visa and be deported.

And she went on to describe a harrowing pre-trial process the lab assistant had to go through to see her day in court. The lab assistant calmly answered several hours of humiliating questions during interviews, Beglin said, and went over 152 pages of depositions with the attorneys. And at the end of it all, she had to relive her account of the events in a courtroom full of people.

“Did she want to do this?” Beglin asked the jury. “No, but she did it anyway to make sure Dr. Itoh never does this again.”

As for Itoh’s testimony that he acted in self-defense against his lab assistant, who he claims savagely attacked him on both July 8 and July 10, 2008, Beglin asked why Itoh never called the UI police and why, when the officers did finally arrive, he didn’t have any visible injuries.

Defense attorney Patricia C. Kamath left the jury with a different message, one she hoped would carry the day for her client.

“[Dr. Itoh] is not a violent man,” she said, “He is not a monster.”

She recounted Itoh’s testimony from Oct 22, when he said that his lab assistant attacked him on July 8 and July 10 when he tried to discuss her work performance. She attributed the lab assistant’s aggressive behavior to the onset of hyperthyroid storm, a condition with symptoms ranging from anxiousness to psychosis.

Hyperthyroid storm is an advanced stage of hyperthyroidism, the lab assistant’s diagnosed condition. When medical professionals at the UIHC examined her she did not exhibit any of the above symptoms. They gave her medication to prevent her condition from advancing any further.

“Obviously, [Itoh’s lab assistant] found this a very emotional and difficult time in her life,” Kamath said.

Kamath went on to bring into question the lab assistant’s behavior on July 8. The lab assistant testified that after Itoh punched her in the face, she followed him into his office where he proceeded to fondle her breasts and genitals. Kamath expressed her skepticism about this version of events to the jury.

“Who follows their abuser into a private locked room?” Kamath asked.

Kamath also raised the issue of the lab assistant’s poor performance in the lab, and how this cost Itoh grant money on at least one occasion.

Beglin’s rebuttal was brief but pointed. The defendant physically and sexually abused his lab assistant, she said, and then turned around and blamed her for it.

“Her reality was one of continual abuse,” Beglin said.

“Some things cross all cultures and all people, and one of those things is dignity,” she said. “He stripped her of her dignity.”

The court will reconvene tomorrow. If Itoh is found guilty of sexual assault in the third degree, he will face up to ten years in prison, said Kamath.

(Michael 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 a minor in English.)