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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Ennis takes stand and tells jurors that sexual contact with young woman officer was consensual

Spokane Police officer Gordon Ennis testifies on his own behalf Tuesday, Mar. 6, 2018 in a courtroom at the Spokane County Courthouse where he is on trial for rape of a female officer during a party. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

Dressed in a dark suit, his dark blueish tie resting on a white dress shirt, former Spokane police Sgt. Gordon Ennis took the stand Tuesday morning in his own defense against charges that he sexually assaulted a new officer after a drunken night of partying.

Ennis’ account was much different from that of the alleged victim. He said the woman was not as drunk as reported and was coherent enough to carry on a conversation. And it was her who initiated contact that led to the two ending up in the same bedroom during that night in October 2015, he told jurors.

The woman and several witnesses testified she was drunk for much of the night and couldn’t have consented to a sexual encounter with Ennis.The woman said she doesn’t remember much of anything, other than waking up with Ennis fondling her.

During his testimony, Ennis said “we turned the corner to go down the hallway toward the room, and we got about halfway down … and she grabbed me around the butt and pulled my hips in close to her and embraced me,” he said in court. “She put her neck and face into my neck again and kind of nuzzled me.”

In previous testimony some witnesses told the jury the woman was so drunk that several people had to look after her throughout the night. She vomited several times and at one point wandered out into the living room unclothed, according to witness testimony. The woman said she doesn’t recall any of it.

When she took the stand last week, the woman said she had blacked out most of the night after partygoers at Officer Doug Strosahl’s home in Colbert moved out of the hot tub around midnight. Several people passed out after being in the hot tub, including Strosahl and another woman who is friends with his wife, while the victim was discovered in a bathroom, lying on the floor and vomiting.

After several hours of her lying in bed, vomiting, and wandering around to other rooms, Ennis, Doug Strosahl and Strosahl’s wife, Heather, went to check on the woman in the guest bedroom. Strosahl testified they wanted to “make fun of her” for throwing up, but Heather Strosahl told detectives they wanted to check on her well-being.

After leaving the bedroom around 2:15 a.m., the woman then followed the three into the kitchen, where witnesses and Ennis said she put her arm around the sergeant’s neck and rested her head on his shoulder. Ennis testified in court Tuesday that he considered the embrace sexual.

After a few minutes in the kitchen, Officer Strosahl suggested he and his wife go to bed. They left, while Ennis and the woman walked down the hallway toward the guest bedroom.

The victim testified she woke up at around 3 a.m., crying, her body rocking back and forth and the defendant seated next to her penetrating her with his fingers. She said Ennis said “Uhh, I gotta go,” before leaving the room and the house.

She reported what she testified was a sexual assault minutes later to her friend and stayed on the phone for close to an hour. She also told several other people, including fellow police officers and Doug Strosahl, before reporting the rape officially later the following evening.

But according to Ennis’ testimony, after the embrace in the hallway, the two went onto the bed where the woman started stroking his leg and he reciprocated. The contact escalated until he had said he had a “reality check.”

“It seemed like this was moving toward sex,” he said. “I was realizing the implications this could have – already had – in my personal life, and the powerful implications it could have in my professional life.”

Ennis, who remains married, said he got up as the victim pulled her pants up and told her “this wasn’t a good idea.” He said he offered to talk to her about the sexual contact the next time they were both at work.

“I assured her it wasn’t her fault, that I just needed to go,” he said.

Defense attorney Rob Cossey asked Ennis if he had any doubt the woman was intoxicated.

“She was awake the entire time,” he said.

Deputy prosecutor Kelly Fitzgerald challenged the defendant on his explanation for ceasing the sexual contact with the woman, given his actions earlier in the night.

“So you got a conscience because you were married?” she asked.

“Yes,” he responded.

She asked him why he didn’t stop sexual contact with another woman earlier in the night in the hot tub, where he admitted to kissing her while she sat on his lap. He said at the time he didn’t feel like stopping.

The final witnesses focused on a meeting in attorney Cossey’s office two days after the assault accusations, where detectives met Ennis to collect DNA. They took swabs of his hands, but were unable to collect fingernail clippings since the defendant’s nails were cut too short.

Ennis told jurors that he offered to cut the fingernails himself. But when the state recalled the lead detective on the case, Spokane County Sheriff’s Deputy Brandon Armstrong, he disputed Ennis claim. Armstrong said Ennis didn’t speak at all during the collection of evidence.

Detectives ultimately decided not to cut the fingernails because to do so, they said it would be akin to torture.

Attorneys will deliver closing arguments Wednesday. Jurors will then begin deliberations.