Opening statements made in Creston rape case

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Jurors heard opening statements Monday in the trial of a man charged with the forcible rape of a Creston woman.

Prosecutors allege 45-year-old Charles Todd Clugston stripped off the woman's clothes and forced her into bed before sexually assaulting her.

In her opening statement, Deputy Flathead County Attorney Lori Adams graphically described the unwanted and violent sex acts allegedly perpetrated against the victim.

"She's demeaned and embarrassed," Adams told the jury. "She will come in and tell you what happened that night and how horrible it was."

Deputies twice responded to Clugston's home on Lake Loop Drive in Creston the night of Oct. 20, 2007 before arresting him about 11:30 p.m.

At 9:30 p.m., officers broke up a verbal disagreement between Clugston and his alleged victim, then 34 years old.

Two hours later, they were back to investigate another disturbance. Upon arrival, deputies allegedly heard a woman inside shouting "no" and 'stop." They entered the residence and arrested Clugston, who allegedly was naked and in bed with his victim, for the alleged rape, according to court records.

Adams asked jurors to use common sense when listening to testimony and to "hold the defendant accountable for all the horrible things he did to [the alleged victim]."

Clugston, who pleaded not guilty to sexual intercourse without consent during his November 2007 arraignment, maintains his innocence.

"You will see that the things in this case are not what they initially seem, not what they initially appear to be," Clugston's attorney, Scott G. Hilderman, said in his opening argument.

Hilderman, one of three attorneys defending Clugston, painted the alleged victim as a gold-digging schemer who mentally and emotionally tortured the defendant.

Clugston's relationship with the woman, which he was trying to end when the alleged rape occurred, was "tumultuous' and left him "emotionally drained," Hilderman said.

Hilderman is expected to challenge the state's interpretation of physical evidence and spoke Monday about a lack of corroboration. A physical examination of the woman conducted at the hospital came back negative for rape, he said.

The alleged victim also made contradictory statements to investigators and other authorities, Hilderman said.

"They contradict themselves in many important ways," Hilderman told jurors. "You will have no choice but to find Chuck Clugston not guilty of all the charges brought against him."

Also Monday, jurors heard a recording of the 911 call the woman made while the alleged rape occurred. She is heard yelling "leave me alone," let me go" and "don't do this to me" before the call is cut off. When dispatchers called back, the phone appears to have been picked up - possibly by an answering machine - but no one is heard on the line.

Hilderman, however, told jurors that the 911 calls and the layout of Clugston's home show what the defendant said happened is impossible.

"We will show you that this phone call, based on her facts, makes what she said impossible," Hilderman said.

Both Clugston and his alleged victim are expected to take the stand in a trial scheduled to last through Friday. Investigators and forensic experts also are expected to testify.

Clugston is also charged with one count of tampering with or fabricating physical evidence, a felony, and one count of criminal destruction of or tampering with communications, a misdemeanor.

Prosecutors allege that Clugston, in an attempt to destroy evidence while being booked into jail, threw a pair of underwear intended for forensic testing into a toilet and that he interfered when the woman tried to call 911.

Reporter Nicholas Ledden can be reached at 758-4441 or by e-mail at nledden@dailyinterlake.com

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