Court proceedings for a UCSB student accused of seven felonies, including rape, and one misdemeanor stemming from three separate incidents will continue next week because the prosecution and defense failed to set a trial date Wednesday afternoon.
Santa Barbara County Deputy District Attorney Mary Barron and public defender Karen Atkins — who is representing UCSB student Kent Kafatia — met with Judge Clifford R. Anderson III yesterday to discuss scheduling for the trial. Atkins said they were unable to set a date because Anderson has a conflicting trial and the court is still settling pretrial motions, during which lawyers are told what evidence they can use in their cases. Atkins said the jury will not be chosen until late next week after the lawyers and the judge meet again.
Barron said the charges being brought against Kafatia — a 22-year-old junior chemistry major originally from Malawi and studying abroad in the U.S. — now include two felony counts of false imprisonment, one felony count of sexual battery by restraint, two felony counts of criminal threats, one felony count of assault with the attempt to commit rape, one felony count of forcible rape and one misdemeanor count of false imprisonment. Two felony counts of residential burglary and rape of an intoxicated person will not be included in the case based on a decision by former prosecutor Deputy District Attorney Joyce Dudley, while one felony count of false imprisonment was brought down to a misdemeanor by Anderson.
“This changes the case somewhat,” Barron said. “We’re obviously not happy about these changes, but it’s up to the court’s discretion and we’re moving forward.”
Kafatia, who worked as a security guard at Santa Barbara City College, is accused of raping a 20-year-old-woman on Nov. 14, 2004, and sexually assaulting a 22-year-old woman in December 2003, Lt. Paul McCaffrey said in December 2004. A 21-year-old woman alleged she was detained forcibly and asked personal questions by Kafatia on the night of Oct. 31, 2004, at SBCC, leading to the false imprisonment misdemeanor charge. A 51-year-old woman also came forward, but Dudley dropped the felony charges of residential burglary and rape of an intoxicated person involving her, Barron said.
Dudley could not be reached for comment Wednesday afternoon.
The prosecution was transferred from Dudley to Barron because Dudley is handling another case with a conflicting trial date, Barron said. Since Kafatia has the right to a speedy trial, it was necessary to change attorneys so the prosecution would be ready to go to court. Kafatia has been in jail since his Nov. 14 arrest with bail set at $1 million, Barron said.
Before the trial starts, Barron said, both sides will file motions with the court regarding which evidence can be used for their respective cases. Atkins said the prosecution conducted an investigation of Kafatia’s background, but she believes most of this evidence is irrelevant to the case.
“A wide-ranging investigation of [Kafatia’s background] was done including all his records from [UCSB and SBCC] and where he used to live and most of it is completely irrelevant to the case,” Atkins said. “The question is, how much time in court should be devoted [to this evidence]?”
Atkins said there are problems with the women’s allegations against Kafatia. She said the 22-year-old woman may have identified Kafatia incorrectly because of the length of time between the incident and her identification of him from a lineup. Atkins said the 21-year-old woman was asked questions that were normal for a security guard like Kafatia to ask. Also, she said it is difficult to tell whether the 51-year-old woman identified her attacker correctly because she was intoxicated during the Nov. 13, 2004, incident.
“My client is innocent,” Atkins said. “I’m concerned about him getting a fair trial. People get the impression that since he’s charged with more than one offense he must be guilty, but there are serious problems with all the allegations. I believe the young women made mistakes… I’m optimistic about the case.”
Barron declined to comment about the prosecution’s case.
Kafatia could face approximately nine years in prison, depending on the judge, if he is convicted of the seven felony charges and one misdemeanor, Barron said.