Cheese sticks prove businessman did not sexually assault employee, jury told

A popular baked snack has been held up as proof a wealthy businessman could not have sexually assaulted his live-in employee, as claimed.
The businessman, who has interim name suppression, has denied three charges of indecent assault and two of attempting to stop a complainant from giving evidence. He is on trial in the High Court at Auckland.

The sexual assaults are alleged by three separate men, who say they took place in 2000 or 2001, 2008 and 2016.

In his closing remarks on Friday, defence lawyer David Jones QC told the jury a complainant who says the businessman climbed into his bed in 2016 and touched him indecently must be lying.

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In testimony earlier in the trial, the complainant said he had been eating cheese sticks to settle an upset stomach, and these were lying on the bed between him and the wall of his bedroom.

He said the businessman climbed into his bed and lay between him and the wall, spooning him.

David Jones QC is acting for the prominent businessman charged with indecent assault and attempting to dissuade a witness from giving evidence.

Jones said the fact the cheese sticks were undamaged meant the businessman was never in the bed.

I don't know whether youve had any experience with cheese sticks, [there were] half a dozen, about 25cm in length, on a soft surface like a mattress, and they are absolutely pristine. No cracks or anything, he said.

And yet [the businessman] was said to have been up against the wall. If he's been in the bed, those cheese sticks would have been damaged.

Justice Geoffrey Venning is expected to start his summing up for the jury on Monday.

Jones also told the jury the timing of a call from the complainants phone to another anggota of the household which the complainant says was a call for help while he was being assaulted was also proof he was lying.

Jones said CCTV from the house, showing the businessman walking downstairs in his underwear, showed he could not have been in the complainants bedroom at the time the call was made.

Jones told the jury the other two men, who claimed they were assaulted in 2000 or 2001 and 2008, were also lying. Both had bruised egos after going to the businessmans house to ask for funds, he said.

Everybody wants something out of [the businessman]. Everybody is looking for something.

The two charges of dissuading a witness also relate to the 2016 allegation.

In closing for the Crown on Thursday, prosecutor Simon Foote told the jury the businessman knew about two attempts to persuade the complainant to withdraw his statement, and paid out more than $50,000 for a PR agent and his associates to carry them out.

But on Friday, Jones said an astute businessman would have known how to better cover up the payments made if there was illegal behaviour involved.

Someone who is meant to be a very experienced businessman, someone who knows which way is up ... and you think about the simplicity of the financial arrangements and the stupidity of what was done.

He wouldn't do it because its illegal, its stupid, its wrong ... Others doing it is not something he was aware of. He has a reputation and he is not the kind of person that would do this.

Jones asked the jury to use the evidence presented in the five-week trial as a whole and find the businessman not guilty.

Some of the charges are forensically flawed, others make no sense. He has been targetted by lots of people, that's one of the drawbacks of being successful and influential, Jones said.

A manager associated with the businessman is also charged with dissuading a witness. Counsel for his defence begins its closing on Friday afternoon.


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