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Jury deadlocks on 6 counts for La Jolla restaurant owner convicted of sex assaults

SAN DIEGO — Jurors deadlocked Monday on six felony counts stemming from the trial of a La Jolla restaurant owner previously convicted of sexually assaulting intoxicated or unconscious women over a nine-year period.

Daniel Dorado, 61, owner of Voce del Mare, an Italian restaurant on La Jolla Boulevard in the Bird Rock area, was convicted this month of 20 counts, including rape of an unconscious person and rape of an intoxicated person, for sexual assaults that occurred in 2009, 2014, 2015, 2017 and 2018.

Dorado faced 35 charges total related to eight women, but jurors acquitted him of three counts and were unable to reach verdicts on a dozen others. The panel deadlocked on six counts prior to the Christmas break and reconvened Monday for further deliberations on the six remaining counts, but could not reach verdicts.

Dorado, who is in custody without bail, will return to court Jan. 24 for a hearing to determine whether a second trial will be pursued for the 12 charges he still faces. A sentencing date has not yet been set for the 20 convicted counts, which cover conduct related to four of the eight alleged victims.

Dorado is accused of meeting the victims — who range in age from 22 to 58 — at local bars and restaurants, sometimes under the guise of a job interview for a position at his restaurant, or through dating websites.

Prosecutors alleged he offered the women spiked beverages, causing them to fall unconscious. Some victims reported waking up in the middle of sex acts with Dorado, while others alleged they woke up and only discovered later that they’d been sexually assaulted.

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.

Defense attorneys Kim Santini and Eric Youngquist alleged at trial that the sexual encounters with the women were consensual and that no evidence supported that the women had been drugged, as date rape drugs were not detected in any of the victims’ medical screenings. The defense contended the women’s supposed symptoms were more indicative of alcohol consumption.

Deputy District Attorney Jessica Coto told jurors that even if they didn’t believe the victims were given date rape drugs, evidence from the trial indicated the women drank enough to become noticeably unable to consent — in some cases vomiting on themselves or rendered unable to stand or walk — yet Dorado decided to have sex with them anyway.

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