A prosecutor told jurors Monday that former La Jolla restauranteur Daniel Dorado “had a formula” to seek out vulnerable women for sexual assaults in his restaurant, hotel rooms, and home by plying them with spiked drinks.
Testimony began Monday in the sexual assault trial of Dorado, 61, who is charged with 35 felonies involving attacks upon eight women over the last 10 years while he was the owner of Voce Del Mar on La Jolla Boulevard, which closed after his March 2018 arrest.
Deputy District Attorney Jessica Coto told the eight-man, four-woman jury that Dorado’s formula was to “find a vulnerable victim — a woman looking for a job or an older woman looking for love.”
Coto said all eight women were served alcoholic drinks that rendered them intoxicated very fast, which also caused them to fall unconscious and have little memory of what took place.
“Hold him accountable for what he did,” urged Coto to the jury in the trial before San Diego Superior Court Judge Charles Rogers.
Dorado’s attorney, Kim Santini, disputed the prosecutor, saying there was no formula to target vulnerable women and asked for an acquittal on all charges.
“This case is about alcohol, not date rape drugs,” said Santini. “No one was forced to drink alcohol. All of the women drank alcohol of their own free will.”
“They were not forced to do things,” said Santini. “All had a different perspective as to what they wanted from him.”
“It’s not illegal to ask for sex. There’s no evidence that anyone was forced,” said Santini, who attributed the charges due to an “overzealous district attorney and detective.”
Santini said the definition of consent is an issue, saying, “conduct can determine consent.” She said one reported victim has recanted her accusation and actually helped Dorado post bond.
“He is the ultimate host. Mr. Dorado is the life of the party,” said his attorney, who added that “everyone” received free drinks at his restaurant.
The charges include rape and oral copulation of an unconscious person, sexual battery, and assault with intent to commit rape. The first incident allegedly occurred in 2009, and other encounters allegedly took place in 2014, 2015, 2017, and 2018.
Wearing a dark suit with a red tie, Dorado sat at the defense table taking notes. He has pleaded not guilty and remains free on $900,000 bond.
Coto implied that Dorado put some type of date rape drug in the drinks he served to women but none was ever found in a search of the restaurant and his home.
Coto said test results of one woman’s system found she had taken strong medicine designed for coughs that is not supposed to be combined with alcohol.
That 42-year-old woman was the trial’s first witness and she is the sole victim who met Dorado as a customer of his restaurant. The other women were either job applicants or women he had communicated with on an online dating service.
This victim, an accountant, testified she was living in a La Jolla hotel on June 30, 2017, when she walked into the restaurant and Dorado gave her Champagne. She recalled Dorado asking if she was there by herself.
She’s not sure what happened. The woman said she woke up in her hotel room with her clothes put on backwards and inside out. Her glasses were broken, and she was missing one flip-flop.
She discovered her suitcase and clothing had been gone through and she called police. She underwent a rape exam and there were injuries to her genitals, said Coto.
The crime lab found Dorado’s DNA on the woman’s panties, said Coto. His DNA was found on the clothing and on some of the victims, said the prosecutor.
Despite the lab result, the woman testified she was not taking any type of cough medicine that showed up in her system.
The other alleged victims aged 22 to 57 will be testifying in the two-week trial.