Attorneys made opening arguments Tuesday in the trial of Daniel Ryerson, an Air Force cadet accused of sexually assaulting a fellow cadet while the two were partying in Boulder in 2014.
Ryerson, 22, is scheduled for a seven-day trial on charges of sexual assault on a physically helpless victim, sexual assault on a victim incapable of appraising her condition, and second-degree kidnapping.
In their opening arguments, prosecutors said Ryerson raped his classmate when she became extremely intoxicated during the trip while defense attorneys said the two had a consensual encounter neither remembers, possibly due to drugs they unknowingly ingested.
Boulder Deputy District Attorney Catrina Weigel said that Ryerson and the woman, who were friends at the academy, decided on Nov. 1, 2014 to book a hotel room in Boulder and to go to parties together.
"The defendant was her wingman," Weigel said. "It's a code they live by, that your wingman is there to protect you, that you are safe as long as your wingman is there.
"The defendant wasn't just a friend and a classmate, he was that wingman to (the victim)."
But Weigel said as the two continued drinking and going to various parties throughout the night, the woman became more and more intoxicated, with multiple witnesses becoming concerned for her safety. At the last party they were at, Weigel said a witness saw Ryerson lead the woman into a bathroom.
The next day, the woman couldn't remember anything about the previous night, but realized she may have been raped. An exam revealed that she did have sex and that there were injuries. She also had images in her mind of being raped that she initially thought were dreams.
DNA evidence taken in that exam came matched Ryerson, who in initial interviews denied having sex with the woman that night.
"Both mentally and physically, she could not consent to any kind of sex acts," Weigel said. "She did not consent to have sex with Mr. Ryerson in that bathroom."
But John Pineau, Ryerson's defense attorney, said the woman had asked Ryerson's ex about the possibility of "seeing" him, and the two developed a friendship. He said Ryerson also didn't recall everything that happened that night, and was concerned they were drugged. Pineau said a retest of the woman's urine revealed the presence of THC and dextromethorphan, a synthetic derivative of morphine commonly found in cough syrup.
"They were friends, they were drinking buddies, and more," Pineau said. "They had sex sometime that evening. But the following morning, they both had no memory of having sex with each other."
Pineau said that witnesses said the woman -- who by her own admission has a "high tolerance" for drinking -- was still making out with other men at the party for about two hours after she was spotted going into the bathroom, and that she was kissing Ryerson on the neck while the two were walking back to the hotel.
Once back at the hotel, Pineau said, the woman passed out drunk while Ryerson had sex with a girl he knew in Boulder who came over to the room.
"There's nothing pretty about this picture, but we're talking about what really happened," Pineau said. "You look at all the evidence, you look at the whole picture, the whole story, and you will find the verdict is not guilty."