The attorney for a man accused of sexually assaulting three women at his apartment in San Francisco said in court today that a video of one of the encounters appears to exonerate him of some of the charges in the case.
Robert Hoffman, who also goes by the first name Michael, faces nine felony charges including rape, forced oral copulation and sexual battery in connection with three incidents between March and earlier this month.
Hoffman, 50, who works as an employment lawyer in the city, allegedly sexually assaulted a 36-year-old East Bay woman in March, a 19-year-old San Francisco woman in June and a 25-year-old East Bay woman on Aug. 5, prosecutors said.
He arranged meetings with all three alleged victims at his apartment in the 1000 block of North Point Street near Ghirardelli Square after placing ads in the “Men Seeking Women” and “Casual Encounters” sections of the classified ads website Craigslist.
According to testimony in the preliminary hearing, which started today and will continue Friday, each victim tried to leave but was prevented from doing so and forced into sexual acts.
The first victim to testify was the 19-year-old, who said she responded to a Craigslist ad that said, “I would love to dominate and humiliate and degrade you, privately of course.”
The woman testified that she had rough but consensual sex with Hoffman twice prior to the June 25 incident, in which she came over to his apartment but said she didn’t want to have sex.
The woman said Hoffman then pushed her onto his bed and raped her. She said he told her afterward that “he deserved what happened because it was his birthday that day.”
She said she reported the incident to police later that night.
But following the woman’s testimony, Hoffman’s defense attorney Stuart Hanlon told Judge Bruce Chan that he had a videotape of that June 25 encounter that contradicts the victim’s testimony and exonerates his client.
Chan said he will review the video and rule Friday on whether it is admissible in court.
A second victim, the 36-year-old woman, also testified today that she was sexually assaulted in Hoffman’s apartment on March 1 after responding to an ad on Craigslist.
The victim, who spoke through a Russian translator, said that day was the first time she had met Hoffman in person, but acknowledged sending sexually explicit pictures of herself to him prior to the encounter, including one with her cat’s collar around her neck.
During the alleged attack, the woman testified that Hoffman choked and slapped her before engaging in forced oral copulation on her until she broke free and escaped from his apartment, she said.
The victim said Hoffman had told her he liked being dominant during sex and said she liked that, but said she became scared during their encounter because she “thought it would be more playful” instead of the “very intense force” he used, which she likened to “a wild animal.”
The victim called police a day later and reported the incident.
However, Hoffman was not arrested until Aug. 5, following the alleged assault earlier that day of the third victim, who did not appear in court today.
San Francisco police Officer Carmichael Reyes testified that the victim told him that she had also responded to a Craigslist ad, and went to Hoffman’s apartment after meeting him twice before for coffee and dinner.
Reyes said the victim told him that upon entering the apartment, Hoffman immediately became rough with her.
“She was initially OK with it, but all of a sudden wasn’t OK when he started getting rougher,” he said.
Hoffman took off the woman’s shirt and grabbed her chest and neck, but she repeatedly told him to stop and then broke free, put her clothing back on and left, and called police a short time later, Reyes said.
Hanlon said outside of court that his client is innocent of all charges because the case is about a man who openly expressed a desire for dominant sex to the victims, who “agreed to a lot of it, but just didn’t like the way he did it.”
Police also investigated a possible fourth case related to Hoffman, but prosecutors only filed charges involving the three victims.
The third victim is expected to testify when the preliminary hearing continues on Friday, and Hanlon said he expects to recall the first victim to the witness stand if the tape is admitted into evidence.
Hoffman remains in custody on $3 million bail.
His law firm, Hoffman Employment Lawyers, located at 100 Pine St. in San Francisco, handles sexual discrimination, wrongful termination and other employment-related discrimination lawsuits.
Dan McMenamin, Bay City News