SAN DIEGO -- A La Jolla restaurant owner drugged and sexually assaulted eight women at his eatery and various other locations over a nine- year period, a prosecutor told jurors Monday, while a defense attorney argued there was no evidence that any non-consensual acts or date rape drugs were forced upon any of the alleged victims.
Daniel Dorado, the owner of Voce del Mare, an Italian restaurant located on La Jolla Boulevard in the Bird Rock area, is charged with 35 felonies, including rape of an unconscious person and rape of an intoxicated person.
Deputy District Attorney Jessica Coto alleged that the 61-year-old defendant met the victims -- who ranged in age from 22 to 58 -- at local bars and restaurants, sometimes under the guise of a job interview, or through dating websites.
He allegedly offered the women spiked beverages, causing them to fall unconscious and wake up to find the defendant having sex with them or otherwise sexually assaulting them.
"Daniel Dorado didn't just have a pattern. He didn't just have a plan. He had a formula," Coto alleged in her opening statement. "His formula included vulnerable victims, plus a meet-up at his suggestion, on his turf, where he could control the environment."
Dorado was taken into custody in March 2018 on suspicion of assaults on four women. The other alleged victims came forward after learning of his arrest.
The criminal complaint details crimes that allegedly occurred in 2009, 2014, 2015, 2017 and 2018.
The prosecutor alleged that upon meeting each victim, Dorado had a drink ready -- sometimes wine, other times a signature pink cocktail he allegedly offered to several of the women.
Coto said each victim became unusually intoxicated compared to the amount of drinks they consumed, with some unable to stand or walk.
Two victims blacked out and woke up in bed covered in vomit while either naked or partially dressed, according to Coto. Others woke up in the middle of sex acts with Dorado, but without any knowledge of where they were or how they got there, she said.
Defense attorney Kim Santini said the women either engaged in consensual sex with Dorado, or never actually had sexual contact with him, despite their claims. She denied any sex he had with the women was forced.
"There is no reasonable evidence that you will hear that Mr. Dorado intimidated them, forced them, (or) made them feel safety-conscious," Santini told the jury in her opening statement.
She also denied the drugging allegations, saying none of her client's accusers tested positive for date rape drugs, and that their disorientation was more likely the result of excessive alcohol consumption.
The attorney contended the charges were the result of "an overzealous district attorney and (a) detective" who planted the notion of drugging into the alleged victims' minds.
She said one of the alleged victims had an ingredient found in cough medicine in her system, which produces a "depressive effect" when mixed with alcohol.
Santini also questioned the motives of the accusers, particularly some who were allegedly raped following job interviews at Dorado's restaurant, then proceeded to work for him even after the alleged assaults, but were later fired from their jobs. One of the charged victims began dating Dorado for months following her initial meeting with him, in which she told investigators she had drinks with him, became very intoxicated and collapsed, and later woke up naked in a hotel room, the defense attorney said.
Santini called her client "the ultimate host" in explaining his penchant for offering drinks to people, and said he never forced the drinks upon any of the alleged victims.