Scenes From the Courtroom
SMU rape trial sheds light on mysterious case against Donald Cuba
The rape trial for SMU student Donald Cuba began May 20 in Dallas district court. Cuba, 21, is accused of sexually assaulting a fellow student in February 2012 at an on-campus dormitory. The alleged victim, a 20-year-old-woman, is being referred to as Jan Doe.
The case has been complicated from the start. Because SMU is a private university, it is not obligated to release its internal police reports. This trial is the first look into the alleged rape that occurred more than a year ago.
With a crowd of mostly SMU students in the courtroom, Doe calmly took the stand around 10 am and told the jury that Cuba pushed her down on a dorm bed sometime after midnight on February 10, 2012.
“I kind of figured out that the more I struggled, the more my life was in danger,” Jan Doe testified.
Cuba arrived at Smith Hall with another male SMU student, who was interested in Doe’s roommate. When the pair began making out in Doe’s room, she left with Cuba.
The two students then agreed to visit a mutual friend at the end of the hall. But when they arrived at the door, the room was dark, and no one appeared to be inside.
“I suggested that we leave at that point,” Doe said, adding that Cuba was behind her, “blocking the door.”
“He said, ‘No, it’s fine,’ and closed the door,” Doe testified. “He kissed me, and he forced me down onto the bed.”
Doe says Cuba held down both her arms and started to get “more violent” and “aggressive.”
“I kind of figured out that the more I struggled, the more my life was in danger,” Doe said. “I believe I went into shock, quite frankly.”
When Doe stopped struggling, Cuba unzipped his pants, pushed her Nike athletic shorts aside and penetrated her.
Doe says the penetration continued for “a very small amount of time” before Cuba “got sort of a surprised look on his face” and got off of her.
After exiting the room, Cuba asked Doe to go to a fraternity house with her. Doe testified that she asked people in the hallway to distract Cuba so she could get away from him. Doe says she wasn’t crying or frantic at this point.
“I was still very much in shock,” Doe said on the stand.
With Cuba distracted, Doe ran up and down the stairs trying to find someone to talk to. She found a male friend in the stairwell of the first floor and told him she needed “a safe place.” He brought her to his room.
“I collapsed there and just broke down. I couldn’t explain. I didn’t know what to say. I was completely in pieces,” Doe said.
Someone began knocking loudly on the door, and Doe feared it was Cuba. But, Doe testified, it was actually another student who thought that the boy giving her refuge in his room was taking advantage of her.
“That couldn’t have been further from the truth,” Doe said on the stand.
When defense attorney Robert Udashen first began cross-examining Doe, he focused on her timeline of events, as well as whether or not she had been drinking on the night in question.
Udashen introduced the idea that after shopping at NorthPark Center, Doe had drinks at Margarita Ranch. Udashen also asked Doe, who was 19 at the time of the alleged assault, if she’d gone to buy alcohol with another SMU student that night, or if she’d had champagne in the hours leading up to her meeting with Cuba.
Doe testified that she didn’t remember drinking alcohol that night but that she couldn’t specifically recall if she had or hadn’t.
Udashen asked Doe if she screamed while Cuba was penetrating her, or if she tried to scratch or kick him. She said no.
“I have since gone back and wished I had,” Doe testified.
Another point of inquiry is whether or not a student was asleep in the room where the alleged assault occurred. Doe says she didn’t see anyone. One of the beds was lofted near the ceiling, allowing for the possibility of a concealed sleeper.
The night of the incident, Doe told only her roommate and one other friend. She waited several days to tell her resident advisor at SMU and even longer to report the crime to the police.
“I never thought it could happen to me,” Doe testified. “I was trying my best to appear normal.”
The trial in Judge Susan Hawk’s court continues Monday afternoon.