Arrow-right Camera
News >  Spokane

Hostage specialist’s rape trial begins

Man accused of sexually assaulting woman at Fairchild facility

The trial started Tuesday for a hostage interrogation expert charged with taking a woman he had just met over the Internet into one of the most restricted facilities at Fairchild Air Force Base and raping her repeatedly.

Michael W. Fassbender, 32, is charged with three counts of first-degree rape and second-degree assault with sexual motivation after an encounter with a woman on Oct. 19 inside a survival school at Fairchild. Fassbender is on leave from his civilian job at SERE Solutions, which provides contract instructors who train military personnel both how to interrogate prisoners and how to avoid giving information to their captors.

Deputy Spokane Prosecutor Sharon Hedlund described how Fassbender allegedly took the woman to a mock prisoner-of-war camp on the base and later inside the interrogation training building.

The night went sideways when the woman asked to use a restroom, Hedlund told the 11-man, one-woman jury. “Mr. Fassbender tries to demand intimacy in exchange for taking her to the bathroom,” she said. “He brushes it off as a joke.” Once inside the secure interrogation building, which was unoccupied, Fassbender began kissing the woman, and she did not object, Hedlund said. “Then he takes it further and she resists,” Hedlund said. “He starts treating her like she’s someone under his instruction.

“During this time, he repeatedly calls her names. He is slapping her. At one point, he has his hands around her neck … to cause her to lose consciousness. She wakes up to him penetrating another part of her person.”

Fassbender’s defense attorney, Christian Phelps, asked jurors to keep an open mind and said they would hear evidence that proves little more than “rough sex” that was consensual.

“You just heard one side. The state will have their spin or slant on that,” he said. After the victim resisted having her shirt taken off, “You won’t hear about any ‘nos’ or ‘stops’ after that point. You will hear she consented to the sex acts. She concealed her fright that she indicated she had. You’ll hear she didn’t want Mr. Fassbender to know she was upset or scared.”

According to court records, the woman said Fassbender “bragged that he had done this to eight other women” and “told her that she could yell as loud as she wanted but that nobody would hear her.”

After opening statements, Hedlund called Dr. Randall Volk, who is an emergency room physician at Holy Family Hospital. He described redness on the back consistent with being slapped, and scratches on her neck, breasts, lower back, buttocks and thigh. The woman also had a bruise under her eye.

“She was scared,” Volk said. “She wanted help.”