Jurors mull fate of La Jolla Restaurant owner accused of sex assaults

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Jurors on Tuesday began deliberating the fate of Daniel Dorado, who is charged with 35 felonies, including rape of an unconscious person and rape of an intoxicated person.

SAN DIEGO — A La Jolla restaurant owner raped eight women who he either drugged or knew were too intoxicated to consent to sex, a prosecutor said Tuesday, while a defense attorney argued none of the charged sex acts were forced upon the alleged victims, nor was there any evidence that any of the women were drugged.

Jurors on Tuesday began deliberating the fate of Daniel Dorado, who is charged with 35 felonies, including rape of an unconscious person and rape of an intoxicated person. He faces nearly 31 years in prison if convicted of all counts, which are charged for rapes that allegedly occurred in 2009, 2014, 2015, 2017 and 2018.

The 61-year-old defendant is the owner of Voce del Mare, an Italian restaurant located on La Jolla Boulevard in the Bird Rock area.

Dorado is accused of meeting the victims — who ranged 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.

He allegedly offered the women spiked beverages, causing them to fall unconscious and later wake up in the middle of or just after sex acts with the defendant.

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 attorney Eric Youngquist said the prosecution had not proven anything regarding the use of date rape drugs, force or threats on Dorado’s behalf, and that each of the encounters with the women were consensual.

The attorney said no evidence of date rape drugs turned up in any of the alleged victims’ systems and contended their 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.

“You can’t consent to something you don’t know is happening to you,” Coto said. “You can’t make a choice if you are not aware what is happening.”

Youngquist questioned the motivations of some of the alleged victims, 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 victims dated 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.

Youngquist alleged she was essentially told by police and prosecutors that she was raped, but later testified at trial that she didn’t consider herself a victim. Quoting his co-counsel Kim Santini’s opening statements, Youngquist 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. The attorney emphasized that some of the victims used similar language to describe their symptoms, such as feeling “heavy” or “disassociated.”

Youngquist also alleged some of the accusers were seeking civil, monetary damages from Dorado, though Coto said only one of the victims ever sued Dorado and has since dropped the lawsuit.

Coto questioned what she said were shifting stories on the defendant’s behalf between his testimony at trial, conversations with police, and pre- textual phone conversations with some of the victims. At various points, the prosecutor alleged Dorado denied having any sexual contact with the women, then later admitted having consensual sex.

“If everything was consensual, why deny?” Coto asked the jury.

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