A man is accused of raping and strangling a woman in her car in Mountain View in 2018 will finally go to trial in May, according to court documents.
Lavel Powell, a 30-year-old Oakland man, is charged with rape by force causing great bodily injury stemming from a sexual assault reported on Greenview Drive in Mountain View. He faces up to life in prison due to a prior felony sexual assault conviction.
The trial was set to begin Aug. 5, 2019, but was delayed several months after Powell sought a new defense attorney.
Mountain View police officers first met with the victim in an emergency room at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center (VMC) on Sept. 23, 2018, shortly after the assault. In court documents, officers described how she had redness on multiple parts of her neck roughly 3 inches in length, had a raspy voice and red eyes and her shirt was torn in multiple places.
The victim told police that she knew Powell from work, and that he called her around 4 a.m. saying he was having "difficulties" in his life and needed someone to support him emotionally, according to court documents. She did not have a close relationship with Powell and had a live-in boyfriend at the time, but agreed to drive to Dale Avenue to meet him, where he got in the passenger seat.
The victim told police that Powell started kissing her, despite her telling him "no" and "please get off," before he allegedly squeezed her neck so tightly that she could not breathe. She recalled gasping for air and feeling light-headed before blacking out. When she regained consciousness, she told police Powell was on top of her and raping her.
She reportedly fought with Powell "with all her might" and opened the car door, pushing him out before driving away.
The woman is described in multiple Mountain View police reports as being reluctant at least at first to disclose the name of the attacker or what she discussed with him prior to the assault. She also initially refused a SART exam, also known as a rape kit, for collecting evidence in sexual assault cases.
She took down the contact information for police Detective Temo Gonzalez and called him the next day, however, saying she was ready to give with more details in part because she was "tired of feeling guilty" for things that have happened to her.
In the lead-up to the attack, the victim told police that Powell had confided in her that he had been in jail for five years, but declined to disclose what crime he was convicted of committing. He allegedly told her that the last time he told a girl, she never talked to him again. Powell was on probation out of Alameda County on human trafficking charges.
She agreed to undergo a SART exam, but declined medical attention when the nurse recommended she go to the main VMC hospital for continued, severe neck pain and possible complications associated with strangulation, according to police reports.
Powell pleaded not guilty in December 2018 to rape by use of force causing great bodily injury. He remains in county custody without the possibility of bail.
Earlier this month, Powell's attorney ordered for the release of records from the victim's high school, alleging that they will show she stole money from unattended backpacks during a student band recital. Jeffrey Mendelmen, Powell's attorney, claims that she "did not learn from this past event," but does not explain in the document how the alleged incident is relevant to the rape case against Powell. He declined to comment for this story.
County officials have taken a particular interest over the last year in domestic violence and sexual assault incidents involving strangulation, which can be fatal and is often a "significant predictor" of future lethal violence, especially in intimate relationships.
New policies adopted in September last year ask law enforcement agents and health care officials to inquire about strangulation, in part because the signs may not be readily apparent and can result in a long list of delayed medical complications.
"Victims often decline medical aid for strangulation," according to the policy. "If there is obvious concern for the victim's well-being, emergency medical follow-up should be considered regardless of the victim's desire."