The Ritzville Adams County Journal - Eastern Adams County's Only Independent Voice Since 1887

By Jeremy Burnham
The Journal 

Kuest guilty of first-degree rape

Sentencing scheduled for March 2

 

Last updated 2/12/2020 at 4:17pm

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The Adams County Courthouse

RITZVILLE - A jury in Adams County Superior Court has found Ritzville man Michael Anthony Kuest, 27, guilty of first-degree rape with a deliberately cruel aggravator, two counts of second-degree assault and one count of witness tampering.

Kuest will be sentenced March 2; he's facing a maximum sentence of life in prison.

In his opening argument, Adams County Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney K. Peter Palubicki said the case would be about choices the defendant made.

"Life is about choices," Palubicki said in his opening argument. "The defendant made a choice to turn a consensual sexual encounter into a brutal rape."

The prosecution's case centered around the victim's testimony. The courtroom was silent and solemn as the victim gave her version of events.

The victim, who was homeless and living in Spokane at the time of the incident, testified that she contacted Kuest during the morning of June 3, saying that she wanted to meet up for sex.

She admitted on the stand that the two have often met up for sex and to use drugs. She said her entire relationship with the defendant revolved around sex and the use of methamphetamine.

"We used meth every time we got together," she said on the stand.

On the morning in question, she said though she used methamphetamine herself before heading to Ritzville, she did not bring any to share with the defendant.

She said when she arrived at the shed in which Kuest was living, everything was fine at first.

The victim said the two engaged in "lots of heavy petting and making out." She said no sex occurred at this time.

The victim said she left the shed to meet her son and daughter-in-law before returning.

When she returned to the shed, she said Kuest's demeanor had changed. She said he told her to, "Do what you say you're going to do."

The victim then proceeded to describe, in graphic detail, being raped and beaten by the defendant.

"I was begging him to stop and to let me go," the victim said. "I tried to fight back at first, but then I laid there and let him beat me."

The victim admitted that she initiated the encounter that day to have sex with the defendant, and admitted that she had said otherwise to police in the past. She also admitted to being high the day of the crime, and did not deny that she had sold drugs in Ritzville. Though the state had been upfront with this, the defense focused on it throughout the trial.

The prosecution also presented as evidence photographs of several injuries sustained by the victim, including cuts, bruises and abrasions all over her face and body. The defense tried to cast doubt into the the time frame of these injuries and suggested that some of the bruises looked to be old. However, the prosecution called the daughter-in-law of the victim who visited her briefly that day. She testified that the victim did not have these injuries when she saw her.

The victim also suffered two broken ribs.

DNA evidence presented by the state established the defendant's DNA was found on sensitive parts of the victim's body. However, experts also clarified that these tests cannot determine if sex was consensual. The evidence was still meaningful, however, because the defendant testified that he did not have vaginal sex with the victim that day.

Two tapes containing conversations Kuest had while in jail were introduced into evidence. One contained a phone conversation and the other contained a conversation he had with a visitor.

The tapes included Kuest admitting to hitting the victim with a wooden board, as well as Kuest telling the person on the other line to tell a witness not to testify. The latter was the evidence used to establish the charge of witness tampering.

After the state rested, the only witness the defense called was Kuest himself.

Kuest's version of the day matched closely with the victim's up to the point where the victim returned to the shed after meeting with her son and daughter-in-law.

From there, his story differed. He testified that the victim asked if she could move in with him and he declined, angering her. He claims he rejected her at least one other time and she became violent.

Defense attorney Timothy D. Trageser spent much of his closing argument focusing on the fact that the victim was high when the incident occurred. During his cross examination of the victim, he got her to admit that her perception is not always accurate when she is on drugs.

Trageser also argued that the victim, being homeless, needed affirmation from the defendant and, failing to receive that, became angry and initiated the incident.

The three-day trial began on Jan. 29, more than six months after the crime took place. The trial had been delayed several times as multiple layers for the defense withdrew from the case.

 

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