SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — A judge dismissed the majority of the charges against a man accused of sexually assaulting three women at his San Francisco apartment following the preliminary hearing Friday.
Robert Hoffman, 50, who also goes by the name Michael, was being held on $3 million bail and faced nine felony charges including rape, forced oral copulation and sexual battery in connection with three incidents between March and August at his apartment in the 1000 block of North Point Street near Ghirardelli Square.
Six of those charges were thrown out by San Francisco Superior Court Judge Bruce Chan, who determined there was insufficient evidence to try Hoffman on charges related to two of the incidents.
After Friday’s testimony, Chan also reduced Hoffman’s bail to $450,000, which is in line with statutory guidelines for the two counts of forced oral copulation and one count of sexual battery that remain.
Hoffman, who works as an employment lawyer in San Francisco, was accused of sexually assaulting 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.
According to testimony in the preliminary hearing, which began on Wednesday and continued Friday morning, Hoffman arranged meetings with each woman at his apartment via ads he posted on Craigslist. Each woman said she tried to leave but was prevented from doing so and forced into sexual acts.
Hoffman’s attorney Stuart Hanlon told Chan on Wednesday that he had video footage of the June encounter that contradicts the victim’s testimony and exonerates his client.
Charges related to the June incident were dismissed Friday after the 19-year-old woman was shown the approximately 13-minute long video that she said accurately portrayed her sexual encounter with Hoffman. Chan said the video was inconsistent with testimony she provided on Wednesday about the encounter.
The woman had testified she had rough but consensual sex with Hoffman twice prior to the June 25 incident, in which she came over to his apartment and was raped after saying she did not want to have sex.
Charges related to the August incident were also dropped after the woman upon being questioned by Hanlon regarding text messages she and Hoffman exchanged the night of the alleged assault, provided testimony inconsistent with what she had told police when she reported the battery.
According to a transcript that Hanlon read during the hearing, she and Hoffman had exchanged text messages indicating that they had arranged for a consensual sexual encounter on the night of Aug. 4.
The woman said she had initially been OK with the rough sex but that she became uncomfortable after Hoffman had choked her and she gasped for air. When she asked Hoffman to stop hurting her, he listened, she said.
She left Hoffman’s apartment at about 12:30 a.m. on Aug. 5 with bruises on her breasts, her side, and her arm, and she then called police to report the assault. Hoffman was arrested hours later.
She testified that she had told a police inspector that she had never had sex with Hoffman, but Friday morning she testified that she had intercourse twice, and only twice, with Hoffman.
Friday afternoon, Hanlon read aloud transcripts of text messages that the woman confirmed indicated that she and Hoffman had sexual intercourse more than twice.
Chan said that the woman’s testimony presented “a significant inconsistency.”
Outside the courtroom, Hanlon told reporters that the woman was “unbelievable in every sense of the word.”
He said, “She clearly lied,” adding that she and the other woman who provided inconsistent testimony were “just plain liars.”
The remaining charges stem from an encounter between Hoffman and the 36-year-old East Bay woman, who testified on Wednesday that she was sexually assaulted in Hoffman’s apartment on March 1 after responding to an ad on Craigslist.
The victim in her Wednesday testimony acknowledged sending sexually explicit pictures of herself—including one of her wearing her cat’s collar around her neck—to Hoffman prior to their encounter.
During her testimony, she said that Hoffman had choked and slapped her before engaging in forced oral copulation on her until she broke free and fled his apartment.
The victim said that 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.”
The woman called police a day later and reported the incident.
“The line is unclear, and the jury is going to have to figure out
what it is,” Chan said after dismissing two-thirds of the charges and reducing Hoffman’s bail.
The prosecution did not object to the dismissal of the charges and did not comment after the hearing.
Hoffman will next appear in court on Sept. 16 for formal arraignment on the remaining charges.
Hanlon said that he anticipates Hoffman will be out on bail sometime within the next week.