May 6, 2009 in City

Trial begins for accused prostitute rapist

By The Spokesman-Review
 

A registered sex offender for years has terrorized prostitutes, according to court records, by forcing them to appease him in strange ways knowing they probably wouldn’t go to police.

But five of them finally came forward to describe their encounters with 48-year-old Pierre D. West that date back to 2005.

As a result, West faces 15 felony charges, including five counts of rape and four counts of kidnapping, in a trial that started this morning before Superior Court Judge Michael Price.

The first victim to testify spoke with a tiny, raspy voice and allowed her hair to fall down, partially obscuring her downturned face from the jury only a few feet away.

Letting out a tense sigh, she did her best today to explain how prostitutes pick up their “dates” on East Sprague Avenue. The mother of a 17-year-old, who is about to become a mother herself, then described her encounter with West on July 16, 2007.

She said she agreed to go to West’s house in Spokane Valley, where he locked the door and refused to pay. He then started to threaten her and became violent. At one point, West asked about the melanoma on the witness’s nose.

“He asked me if I was going to die. I said, ‘Eventually.’ He said it didn’t matter if I die now or later,” she said. “I gathered that he was going to kill me.”

Another of the victims told Spokane County Sheriff’s Detective David Bentley that West showed her a video of West performing acts on another woman who has not yet been identified.

“There is always the possibility of more victims. We don’t know how many,” Bentley said. “A lot of these women don’t come forward for a lot of reasons.”

Assistant Public Defender John Stine told the jury of 10 women and two men that “all of these women consented to have sex with Mr. West. They all consented to go to Mr. West’s house.”

Stine said his client has picked up between 15 and 20 prostitutes over the years.

“His thing is, he likes hard, fast sex,” Stine said. “These women did not report the incidents immediately to police. I think when you get to the end of this case … it should be undisputed that they were not forced to have sex against their will.”

In addition to the lag in report time, detectives were unable to obtain any physical evidence, including video tapes, through a search of West’s homes to corroborate their stories, Stine said.

“It really will come down to the word of these women compared to what Mr. West will tell you,” he said. “If you do that, you will find Mr. West is not guilty of these crimes.”

Deputy Spokane County Prosecutor John Love asked the jury to look past the fact that the five victims are prostitutes.

“We have 15 counts of alleged crimes against a person who chose to take advantage of those women,” Love said. “They got themselves into a situation … where they feared for their lives. Mr. West had complete control of what was going to happen to them.”

Based on a motion prior to trial, the jury will not learn that West is a Level III registered sex offender, meaning he is a high risk to re-offend. He was convicted in 1988 of third-degree rape of a child, according to sheriff’s records.

Before the trial started, one juror disclosed that she saw a news report about West on Tuesday despite three warnings by Judge Price to avoid all forms of media. As a result, she believed that she could no longer serve as an impartial juror, and Price replaced her with an alternate juror.

“I’m more than a little irritated by this,” Price said. “We don’t have an alternate anymore. But that’s the card we’ve been dealt.”

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