When a survival instructor accused of rape broke military policy by bringing a woman into a secure compound, he was in the midst of a “great evening” with a flirtatious date who seemed interested in everything he did, he testified Monday.
“Everything about her was saying she was excited to be here, and she wanted to be here,” Michael W. Fassbender, told jurors in his Spokane County Superior Court trial.
Fassbender, 32, will continue testifying today in what is expected to be the last day of his trial on three counts of aggravated first-degree rape and second-degree assault in connection with an Oct. 19 encounter at a restricted Fairchild Air Force Base facility.
He’s the key witness for his defense against allegations that he repeatedly raped a 27-year-old woman, whom he’d met on an Internet dating site, after meeting her for dinner in Airway Heights.
His testimony Monday portrayed the woman as curious about the secure facility and only briefly reluctant on two occasions during an encounter both seemed to enjoy, until she appeared teary afterward and said he’d “scared” her when he choked her – something he said the woman asked him to do.
Fassbender said he was shocked when he arrived at work the next morning and learned of the police investigation.
“I’m thinking, ‘There’s no way she could accuse me of this,’” Fassbender said. “This is every man’s worst nightmare.”
Fassbender, a civilian contractor with Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape Solutions, has been on leave from Fairchild since his arrest.
“I know I never raped her. I know that in my heart,” he said. “But it’s pretty apparent from sitting over there watching her that she believes it.”
The woman testified last week that she declined Fassbender’s advances but that he choked her unconscious and she awoke to him raping her.
But Fassbender painted a very different scene during Monday’s testimony.
He said the two planned to build a campfire with wood from a mock prisoner of war camp inside the compound when he went inside to use a restroom. The woman had planned to stay in his truck, but he almost ran into the woman when he came out of the restroom, he said. She’d gotten out the truck and was “giddy” and “playful” at being inside the secure facility.
“Her excitement to be there was very obvious,” he said. “She was running around trying to look at things.
“I knew I wasn’t supposed to have her down there. I never intended to have her out of the vehicle,” Fassbender told jurors.
But their date was going well and he wasn’t too pushy about her leaving. “I didn’t want to come off as a jerk,” he said.
The two built a campfire and drank wine. The conversation quickly turned to their sexual habits, Fassbender said, and the woman indicated she enjoyed “rough sex.”
The woman said she needed to “go pee” and Fassbender offered to let her used a restroom inside. Once inside, “she was asking all sorts of things,” Fassbender said. “I kept telling her ‘I can’t talk to you about this type of stuff.’”
She went to an interrogation room, which Fassbender and others have testified cannot lock. Fassbender said he told her, “Here’s a question that I’ll ask you in here, ‘Can I have another kiss?’”
The two embraced, and the woman never indicated she didn’t want to be there, he said.
The woman declined an earlier advance from Fassbender but didn’t push him away and allowed the advance again moments later, he said. She questioned his position at one point during sex but didn’t ask him to stop when he asked if it was OK.
Fassbender said he slapped, spanked and called the woman names at her request, then choked her after she said she enjoyed it and would say “Palomino” when she wanted him to stop – a reference to an old “Saturday Night Live” clip. Jurors saw photos of scratches on Fassbender’s arms after his arrest and red marks on the woman’s body that Fassbender said came from consensual roughness.
He disputed the woman’s claim that she lost consciousness.
“She never went limp; she never fell,” Fassbender said. “She took a couple of deep breaths and that was it.” Afterward, he said the woman appeared “teary eyed.”
“I could tell there was something wrong,” he said. “She said, ‘You scared me when you were choking me.’ I was concerned at that point.”
But not much more was said. Fassebender asked the woman if she wanted to stay at his home that night and she said no, that she needed to go to school early the next day.
So he drove her back to her car at the restaurant where they’d dined earlier, and she came to the driver’s window to kiss him goodnight before she left, Fassbender said.