A young woman who attends the Bodhi Tree double murder trial every day said Friday that she was sexually assaulted in broad daylight on her way to the courthouse.
Acacia Raskin, 19, was waiting to cross the street to the Fourth Street courthouse entrance around 10:30 a.m. Thursday when a man who she said she has never seen before came up behind her, grabbed her in between her legs and groped her, while reportedly putting his head next to her face.
"I said, 'Oh, my God,' turned around and pushed him off," Raskin said. "I said, 'What are you doing?' He said nothing.
"I didn't know what to say. I was just in shock," she said, adding moments of the trial flashed through her mind.
Raskin said she immediately thought of a woman who Tree allegedly groped at a party a few days before reportedly shooting Eureka resident Rhett August.
"I had the whole case in my head," she said.
A Eureka police officer and Humboldt County Sheriff's Office deputy who witnessed the incident arrested Damon Wright on suspicion of sexual battery, Eureka police services officer Brittany Kesterson said. According to the jail, Wright was released on his own recognizance on Thursday.
Wright was arrested for two misdemeanor warrants alleging battery and petty theft in 2011 after the Eureka Police Department's Problem Oriented Policing Unit served a search warrant at a motel on Fourth Street and found a methamphetamine operation being run by his mother.
While watching law enforcement arrest Wright, Raskin said she saw needles sticking out of his pants.
"It could have been worse, but it's sad that we have to think it could have been worse," Raskin said. "It shouldn't be like that. He shouldn't have had the opportunity to do that."
Once the police report is complete, it will be forwarded to the district attorney's office, Kesterson said.
Raskin said she wants people to be aware of what's happening in the area, and that she was actively walking to court when the incident occurred.
"I want to speak out and be loud and clear about what happened so that when this case is set down on the DA's desk it's not just ignored," Raskin said.
Raskin is the best friend of Christina Schwarz, the Eureka High School senior who was fatally shot in May 2013. She said she has been attending the Tree trial every day to make sure Schwartz is not forgotten.
Tree is accused of fatally shooting Schwarz and 27-year-old Alan "Sunshine" Marcet in the early hours of May 18, 2013, at an Eye Street home in Arcata. Prosecutors allege Marcet came to her defense after Tree made unwanted sexual advances.
Tree is also accused of attempting to murder August three days prior to the Arcata shootings. He has pleaded not guilty to two charges of murder and one charge of attempted murder. He faces 50 years to life in prison if convicted.
Raskin's mother, Karen Raskin, said she's concerned that her daughter is learning that this behavior is expected from men these days.
"It really just boggles my mind that this is happening," Karen Raskin said. "I'm just really sad for Acacia, that at 19 years old she's had a friend murdered and has had this happen to her."
Contact Lorna Rodriguez at 441-0506.