Evidence Supports Rape Accusation, Prosecutor Argues; Bethesda Dentist’s Attorney Says Case ‘Based on a Lie’

A teenager’s word alone should be enough to convict a Bethesda dentist on charges that he sedated and sexually assaulted her in his office in October 2001, an assistant state’s attorney said yesterday.

But there is much more than that, Assistant State’s Attorney Laura Chase told jurors in closing arguments at the rape trial of David E. Fuster in Montgomery County Circuit Court.

The young woman, who was 15 years old at the time, reported the incident soon afterward to a friend, to her aunt with whom she was living, to police and to hospital workers, Chase said. Physical evidence, including DNA, supported her account, and a hospital examination of her genitals showed some signs of trauma, she said.

Perhaps strongest of all, Chase said, were the dentist’s own words in a telephone call with the victim that was monitored by the police. The call contained admissions — “some subtle, some not so subtle” — of his guilt, Chase said.

Fuster, 47, of Damascus, peered intently at Chase as she outlined the evidence against him. Members of his family sat in the front row of Judge D. Warren Donohue’s courtroom. Directly behind them sat the young woman, clutching her father’s hand.

She was expressionless as defense attorney Barry Helfand presented his summary of the case, arguing that she — “with sad tears in her eyes” — had lied.

“It had been based on a lie. Not a mistake. A baldfaced lie,” Helfand said, referring to her first account. “And it would have been under oath.”

Fuster, a father of five who has offices on Old Georgetown Road, is charged with second-degree rape for allegedly having intercourse with the teenager while she was helpless. He also is charged with child abuse, third-degree sexual offense and second-degree assault.

In her closing argument, Chase pointed jurors to the telephone call, in which Fuster did not deny having sexual intercourse with the woman after sedating her for a dental procedure and did not express outrage when she accused him of having sex with her while she was groggy from nitrous oxide.

“He tried to convince her that she even encouraged him,” Chase said. Above all, Chase said, he emphasized that the teenager should not tell anyone else.

“The thing is,” Fuster allegedly told her, “that’s between the person and me. For me that moment is a very sacred moment.”

When the young woman said she had hoped her first sexual experience would be special, Fuster allegedly replied: “You know what, sweetie? Look, if you are under 16 years of age, even with your consent, even if it were with your consent, to make love to you like that is considered rape.’ “

A recording of the call, which was conducted in Spanish, was played for the jury during the trial, and the jury was given transcripts in English.

Helfand pointed to conflicting statements the young woman had made.

At first, Helfand said, she had said that she was completely unconscious during the assault and only realized what had happened afterward. Then, Helfand said, on the eve of trial last year, she changed her story, saying she had been conscious during the assault but was so disoriented from the sedative that she could not resist. She gave a similar account at Fuster’s trial, which began April 21. She testified that she had perceived the assault dimly, as if in an out-of-body experience.

Citing expert medical testimony, Helfand said her assertion that the nitrous oxide had such a powerful grip on her for so long was based on a scientific impossibility. He also challenged her account that she had awakened in the dental chair, walked down a narrow flight of stairs with the doctor’s help to room with an L-shaped sofa where the alleged rape occurred.

“This case stinks, and stinks, stinks,” Helfand said.

The defense’s closing statement is expected to resume today.