Sexual harassment trial under way in Sioux FallsTwo of the women claim their boss raped them, the third says the harassment stopped short of assault.
SIOUX FALLS (AP) — The former co-owner of adult entertainment stores in Sioux Falls and Tea is on trial, accused of sexually assaulting and harassing employees.
Three women who worked for Annabelle's Adult Superstore in Sioux Falls and Olivia's Adult Super Store in nearby Tea sued David Eliason and the stores in 2009. Two of the women claim Eliason raped them, the third says the harassment stopped short of assault.
The women are seeking unspecified monetary damages from Eliason for pain, suffering and loss of enjoyment in life caused by his alleged harassment, and from the stores for failing to take proactive steps to prevent sexual harassment, the media reported.
"These are adult book stores. There are no illusions about that. But it's still a job, and people still deserve to be treated fairly," Aaron Eiesland, one of the lawyers for the women, told jurors in opening statements Tuesday.
No criminal charges were filed against Eliason, who currently runs an adult entertainment store in Sturgis. He disputes the allegations and is representing himself in the civil case, in which the standard of proof is lower than the beyond-a-reasonable-doubt standard applied in criminal cases.
"You've heard some pretty horrible things about me today, but I can assure you that these things are not true," Eliason told jurors.
Attorney Michael Luce, who is representing the businesses, told jurors they will have to decide not only if the allegations against Eliason pass "the smell test," but also whether anyone who invested in the businesses should have suspected wrongdoing or acted to prevent harm.
"They did not know," Luce said.
The trial is expected to last through the week.