‘You raped me,’ former Spring Hill College student told defendant in Instagram message
Alleged victim is first witness called to the stand in high-profile case involving two student-athletes
MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) - The rape trial of a former Spring Hill College student got underway Thursday with testimony from the accuser and diametrically opposing accounts from the two sides of what took place in her dorm room last year.
Prosecutors started their case with Audrey Cox, who went public with her allegations against fellow student Vassil Kokali.
Cox, dressed in khaki pants and a black jacket and wearing her long blonde hair in a ponytail, calmly told the jury about the events at New Hall in March last year that led to Kokali’s arrest. She testified that she went out drinking in downtown Mobile on March 11 last year with friends. The group began at the Piano Bar on Dauphin Street and ended up at the nearby Saddle Up Saloon.
Cox, 21, testified that she had had a lot to drink and does not remember getting home that night. But she that when she was trying the next morning to piece together what happened, an image flashed in her head.
“I had a vague memory of Vassil’s face on top of me,” she said. “And I remembered that face.”
The defense began its cross-examination, highlighting inconsistencies in previous statements Cox has made in an attempt to undermine her credibility.
Defense attorney Dom Soto offered jurors a preview of the defense strategy in his opening statement, calling Cox an “arrogant, privileged, petulant, spoiled, damaged, infantile young lady” who has engaged in “scorched earth” tactics to destroy his client.
“He had a bright future until she ruined it. … This will follow him forever because of her recklessness,” he said.
Kokali, a 23-year-old Italian who attended Spring Hill College on a soccer scholarship, faces charges of first-degree rape, first-degree sodomy and first-degree burglary. On the rape charge, jurors have several options – forcible rape, rape of an incapacitated person and sexual misconduct.
Cox, who is from the Nashville, Tenn., area and attended Spring Hill College on a basketball scholarship, testified that she was disoriented when she awoke on March 12, 2021. Her TV was on the ground, her phone was not by her and she was wearing her contact lenses. Jurors saw photos of Cox’s bloodstained sheets, bloody extension cord and bruises on her body. Most alarming, she said, she was naked except for a T-shirt.
Cox testified that she got up to walk to the bathroom and felt shooting pain and saw blood.
Although Cox did not report the incident to campus police or go to the hospital for a rape exam for more than a day, prosecutors presented evidence showing she immediately told others about the assault. Jurors saw a message she sent to two of her friends that morning: “I think I was raped.”
Later that day, she confronted Kokali on Instagram: “Don’t let me find out you’ve twisted this around to say this was consensual. You raped me.”
After the opening statements but before testimony began, Judge Charles Graddick told the defense he would restrict what they could say about Cox’s lawsuit.
“No, I’m not gonna to let you go there. … It’s just simply not relevant to what happened that night,” he said.
Defense lawyer Megan Doggett objected, telling the judge that the ruling would “greatly cripple our defense.”
When her turn came to question Cox during cross-examination, she did ask about the lawsuit and suggested she has a financial motive for making the sexual assault allegation. But, following Graddick’s instructions, she did not get into social media posts Cox made bragging about taking her friend to Greece and smelling lawsuit.
Soto also alluded to the lawsuit in his opening statement.
“She poses as a ‘me too’ champion,” he said. “But she’s a ‘me champion,’ an Audrey Cox champion.”
Doggett asked Cox about blood on her extension cord. She said the accuser had made a big deal about that but that the blood turned out to be Kokali’s.
Doggett also asked Cox about three witnesses who the defense says will testify about seeing Cox and Kokali flirting with each other and kissing on the dance floor at the Saddle Up Saloon.
“If that’s what they said, then that’s what they fabricated,” Cox said.
In one notable exchange, Cox told Doggett she was raped.
Doggett asked how she could know that when, by her own admission, she had memory lapses from that night.
“You ae assuming you were raped,” she said.
Responded Cos: “No, I was raped because I couldn’t consent.”
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