By COURT TV Staff
BOSTON (Court TV) – A former prosecutor who once graced the pages of People Magazine as one of “America’s Top 50 Bachelors” was found not guilty of two charges of rape on Friday.
Gary Zerola, 51, was indicted on two charges of rape for allegedly attacking a friend of a woman he was dating in 2016.
Prosecutors say the alleged victim, who was 23 at the time, had been out drinking with Zerola and other friends before falling asleep in Zerola’s friend’s apartment. The woman claims that she woke up to find Zerola assaulting her.
In 2001, Zerola was named one of “America’s Top 50 Bachelors” by People Magazine, alongside Ben Affleck and Josh Hartnett. Zerola, who was described by the magazine as a “lawyer/foster care advocate,” told the magazine about a recent date where he took a woman for a pedicure: “I was the only guy in the shop,” he told the magazine. “It turned a few heads, but we talked the whole time.” Zerola also tried out for ABC’s “The Bachelor” reality tv series.
Zerola, who previously worked as both a defense attorney and an assistant district attorney, first faced allegations of rape in 2008. At the time, he blamed his troubles on hard partying and was acquitted on charges stemming from allegations from two different women in 2004 and 2006. Charges against him in Miami were dropped based on insufficient evidence.
Zerola’s legal career has been largely overshadowed by allegations of sexual misconduct, dating back to 1996. None of the allegations have led to convictions or findings of wrongdoing. Zerola once told a reporter that clients have sought him out based on his personal experiences with false accusations.
While Zerola had been released on $10,000 bail in the case and was awaiting trial, he was arrested and charged with raping another woman in January 2021. The case bore many similarities to the 2016 case, prompting prosecutors to file a motion asking to combine the two. Their motion alleges Zerola “raped two much younger women under uncannily similar circumstances just over four years apart. In both cases, in the aftermath of social outings, the women had gone to sleep after becoming intoxicated and awoke to find Zerola violating them.”
The judge in the case denied the motion, saying that the cases involve “different locations, time frames, physical evidence, forensic evidence, civilian witnesses and investigative officers.” The judge also pointed out that while the 2016 case had been delayed repeatedly, in part by COVID-19, the 2021 case was nowhere near ready for trial.
Zerola’s attorney, Joseph Krowski, has described the allegations as “thin.” In an email to the Associated Press in 2021, Krowski said, “The entire indictment process is one-sided. Having said that, an indictment doesn’t make false allegations true.”
If convicted, Zerola faced up to life in prison on each charge.
DAILY TRIAL UPDATES
DAY 4 – 6/9/23
- The defense and prosecutors delivered closing arguments.
- The jury deliberated for three hours before returning a verdict of not guilty on both counts.
DAY 3 – 6/8/23
- The state rested Thursday morning without calling any more witnesses.
- The defense rested after calling one witness, a lawyer friend of the defendant who saw him and the two women the morning after the alleged rape.
- Paul Moraski said he saw the women laughing in Zerola’s car as he brought them drinks from a convenience store.
- Closing arguments are scheduled for Friday morning.
DAY 2 – 6/7/23
- The jury heard from the alleged victim’s friend, a former client of Gary Zerola’s, who was in a sexual relationship with him when the alleged rape occurred.
- Colleen Daley offered a hazy account of the booze-soaked night that preceded the morning of November 10, 2016, when Zerola allegedly raped Daley’s 23-year-old friend on the couch.
- Daley said that after the alleged rape, her friend shook her awake with a serious look on her face and said, “we’re leaving.” They left the home, which belonged to Zerola’s friend, with Zerola so he could drive them to the alleged victim’s car. On the way to his car, Daley said her friend grabbed her by the arm and told her that Zerola “tried to hook up with me.”
- Daley said she did not inquire further because she was hungover and “out of it.”
- In a scathing cross-examination, Zerola’s attorney drew out more details and nearly brought the witness to tears during rapid-fire questioning about her inability to recall details of the night.
- WATCH: ‘Eligible Bachelor’ Rape Trial: Attorney Brings Witness to Tears
- Daley said that she and her friend rode with Zerola to the train station where the friend’s car was parked, and then stayed with him for the rest of the day. They went to a mall and a courthouse so he could attend his hearing before getting massages and having sex in his car.
- When Daley asked him about trying got hook up with her friend, he said “you don’t care,” she testified.
- It took detectives more than a week to track Daley down after she failed to return their calls. She admitted that she was embarrassed and scared to talk to them.
- When she did finally speak to investigators, she left out key details that came out on the witness stand and hid her sexual relationship with Zerola.
- The defense suggested the omissions were evidence Daley was lying.
- The jury learned that the alleged victim minimized the nature of her relationship with Zerola until May when prosecutors confronted her with photos and information the defense gave them.
- Prosecutor Tom Brant read aloud a stipulation that the alleged victim did not tell police or prosecutors that she slept over at the defendant’s house with friends (including Daley) and rode his motorcycle the next morning until confronted with the defense’s information. She testified that she slept over at Zerola’s house after he treated her and her friends to a birthday dinner and drinks.
DAY 1 – 6/6/23
- Special prosecutor Tom Brant said Zerola took advantage of the “access” and “opportunity” to rape the alleged victim while she was passed out drunk in his friend’s home. Brant said it didn’t matter that they knew each other or that they were drinking the night before because she did not consent to sexual activity with Zerola.
- Defense lawyer Rosemary Scappichio said the alleged victim was a “liar” who cannot be trusted. Said her stories changed when she was confronted with contradictory evidence on points such as who contacted who first that night (the alleged victim), who kissed who (videos show Zerola kissing her and her kissing him Zerola).
- The jury saw video and stills of Zerola and the alleged victim hugging and kissing each other at the bar.
- The Four Winds bartender who served the group, Jacqueline Hurley, said she saw Zerola kiss the alleged victim and heard her friend Colleen Daly make a scolding remark. Thought it was odd because Zerola was dating Daly.
- On cross, Hurley said she didn’t tell police about the kiss and the first time she mentioned it was in grand jury testimony. Hurley also said no one in the group appeared to be under the influence when they returned to the bar later that night after going somewhere else.
- The alleged victim, now 29, described how a night of drinking with Gary Zerola and friends turned traumatic when she awoke to find Zerola raping her as she cursed and yelled at him to “get the f— off me.”
- On cross, the alleged victim held her own against defense lawyer Rosemary Scappichio’s allegations that she lied to police about key details from the night in question and downplayed the friendly nature of her relationship with Zerola, who once took her for a ride on his motorcycle and footed the bill for her birthday night out with friends.