A 22-year-old woman told a Hall County jury Tuesday, Jan. 25, that she was beaten and sexually assaulted by two men in 2020 in a Gainesville motel room.
"I've been trying really hard to forget all this," the woman said.
Jurors heard the victim’s testimony after opening statements in the trial of Christian River Bolding, 21, of Flowery Branch, Justin Eugene-Ty Sutton, 22, of Gainesville, and Laura Solano-Mota, 30, of Gainesville.
Sutton and Bolding are each charged with rape, aggravated sodomy, aggravated assault, armed robbery and false imprisonment.
Solano-Mota and another co-defendant, Emily Yulissa Vazquez, 21, of Gainesville, were each charged with robbery and false imprisonment. Vazquez has pleaded guilty in the case.
Assistant District Attorney Harold Buckler told the jury in his opening statement that on May 8, 2020, the then 20-year-old woman went to the Motel 6 on Athens Highway to buy drugs from someone. The woman testified that she came to buy a gram or two of marijuana. When that person was unable to make the transaction, the woman was referred to Bolding.
Instead of a quick transaction, Buckler said the woman was invited into a motel room.
“What she had no way of realizing is that the four people in that room have been doing drugs and are amped and are angry and have a plan for (the woman),” Buckler said.
Buckler said Emily Vazquez was jealous. Bolding and Vazquez were romantically involved as were Solano-Mota and Sutton.
“That’s the evidence you’re going to hear, that Emily Vazquez was jealous that (the alleged victim) was maybe going to get drugs for free from her boyfriend,” Buckler said. “So that’s why Emily starts this, but once it starts, the beating goes on.”
Buckler said the woman was struck by Vazquez, causing her to curl into the fetal position. Buckler said some of the other co-defendants joined in the beating, grabbing the woman by her neck and hair, punching and kicking.
Buckler said Sutton then suggested that Vazquez and Solano-Mota go for a joy ride, to “go out to a gas station. Go have fun. After all, it’s not your car. See if there’s maybe some money in the car.”
That left the victim “naked, bruised, terrified, injured and alone with these two,” Buckler said, referring to Bolding and Sutton.
At that point, Buckler said the woman was forced to perform oral sex by Sutton before being moved to a bed and sexually assaulted by both men.
When Vazquez and Solano-Mota returned, they noticed that the woman was upset, Buckler said.
“So the idea was made: Hey, let’s go ahead and let’s make her shower,” Buckler said. “The next thing you know, they’re talking about DNA. They’re talking about we need to go ahead and take everything that she has touched.”
The woman was given a bar of soap and told to scrub herself, Buckler said.
“Before they left, they told (the woman), ‘Stay in the shower and do not come out,’” Buckler said. “They’ve already made her unlock her phone so they can set it to factory settings. They’ve stolen everything she had.”
The four co-defendants were accused of taking the woman’s car, wallet, phone and watch.
Using stills of surveillance footage from the motel, Buckler said Solano-Mota and Vazquez are seen leaving the hotel room. Vazquez is wearing a white hoodie, which the victim wore into the room.
Afterward, the woman went door-to-door trying to get help and eventually went to the main office and told a hotel employee that she was raped and attacked, Buckler said. Gainesville Police officers arrived and transported her to the hospital, where she received medical treatment and a sexual assault forensic exam.
Sutton’s defense attorney, Jake Shapiro, pointed to inconsistencies in the woman’s story, including an initial statement to law enforcement that she was there to collect gas money.
Shapiro claimed evidence would show that there was “no forceful activity, nothing against anybody’s will.” Shapiro also alleged there was a prior relationship between the woman and Bolding, and argued that Vazquez was upset because her boyfriend had been allegedly exchanging drugs for sex.
“This isn’t just a ‘come out to my car and give me a little bit of weed and I give you a little bit of money.’ Nobody’s looking for weed,” Shapiro said. “(They’re) looking for hard drugs. Nobody has any money. Those things just aren’t true.”
The woman testified that she had never purchased drugs from Bolding and had no prior sexual relations. She also testified that she had no intentions to fight or have sex for drugs.
Shapiro said the woman’s statements to authorities changed.
Buckler asked the woman on the stand if she was forthcoming to the police about why she was at the motel.
“I was scared,” the woman said. “I didn’t know if I’d get arrested … because I was going to buy weed that night. That’s not legal, so I got scared. And so I fibbed about why I was there, but everything else I’ve been honest about.”
Shapiro also asked the jury to consider the incentive for Vazquez, who pleaded guilty, to receive a possibly favorable deal based on her testimony.
Shapiro claimed that the alleged victim made a decision “to go into that room and do exactly what she was there to do: to fight and have sex.”
Shapiro said Sutton had been kicked out of his house roughly five days before the alleged assault.
Kyle Denslow, Solano-Mota’s defense attorney, attempted to distance his client from the violent accusations. He referenced multiple times to the statements made by the alleged victim that described his client as the “quiet one, the one who just kind of stood there, the not-aggressive one.”
Denslow said the jury would have to decide if Solano-Mota did anything criminal or if she was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Bolding defense attorney Jason Wilson similarly said that his client was “just there to sell drugs” and was on the sidelines during the alleged beating.
“He had no idea that these psychos were suddenly going to just start wailing away,” Wilson said.
Wilson said by the end of the evidence the jury would be “pretty confident that no rape occurred.”
“A horrible transaction occurred, but that transaction was done willingly and consensually,” Wilson said.
The trial is expected to last through Wednesday, Jan. 26.