City Treasurer David Cohn testified he could not recall all details when he took the stand Monday in a preliminary hearing for two individuals accused of attempting to extort him.
Cohn, a Hermosa Beach resident, frequently said he couldn't remember or didn't recall specifics about the case when defense attorneys questioned him about two massages he had arranged and a missing iPad and extortion attempt that allegedly followed.
However, what did come out on the stand is sure to have people talking: Hermosa Beach Detective Gerritt Poelstra said Yuritsi Garcia, accused of attempting to extort Cohn after the massage went awry, told him she allows clients to touch her during the massage procedure and that she "always gave clients a happy ending."
Outside the courtroom, during and after details of Cohn's two massages with Garcia were described in testimony, his attorney John Sweeney told reporters: "We're not going to make any comment. He is the victim and we're going to allow the system to take its course."
At the conclusion of Monday's hearing, Judge Hector M. Guzman ordered Garcia, 26, and her boyfriend Gustavo Ceron, 29, to stand trial on an attempted extortion charge.
Cohn's testimony was the first time he has spoken publicly about the incident and allegations surrounding it. He did issue a statement through an attorney in early December saying he would not resign his post as city treasurer.
Garcia and Ceron are accused of trying to extort Cohn. It's not clear if the extortion attempt was in exchange for the return of his iPad or for not releasing content that had been on it. Hermosa Beach police found the device in Garcia's possession when they arrested her on Nov. 13 outside a Bell bank during the alleged extortion attempt.
Many specifics in the case have yet to be revealed or confirmed by authorities; what has been made public has often been conflicting and of a "he said, she said" nature.
Outside court Monday, Deputy Public Defenders Ernestine Odom and Gregg Hayata, who represent Garcia and Ceron, told the Daily Breeze they did not think Cohn was being truthful on the stand.
Garcia, who gave the Daily Breeze an interview in November about her version of events, told the newspaper that Cohn lied and she looks forward to the trial, when a graphic video she says he sent her can be played in court.
According to Monday's court testimony, Cohn went to Garcia's Maywood home on Oct. 26 for a massage after seeing her ad for massage services on Craigslist. When questioned by Deputy Public Defender Ernestine Odom, Cohn said Garcia wore "tights with kind of a blue outfit" and that she was fully clothed. He said he was to pay $65 for one hour and that he told her his back needed special attention. He got on a massage table in her living room.
When asked if there were any "sexual innuendoes during this first appointment," he said, "I don't remember." When asked if he said anything of a sexual nature to her, he said, "No," and that he didn't recall if she'd said anything of a sexual nature.
He also said he and Garcia had never engaged in phone sex but that they did text back and forth after the Oct. 26th massage and prior to a second massage that took place in his home on Nov. 3.
Cohn said he agreed to pay her $100 for a 60-minute massage for the session in his home. When Garcia arrived there, Cohn said he took Garcia into a guest bedroom and disrobed for the massage and that she took off her clothes, too.
"She was totally nude," he said, later clarifying: "The sequence was I disrobed... couldn't see everything that was going on and I couldn't see she was nude."
"When I was lying on my stomach, I could not see what she was doing but I think she was using some kind of apparatus," Cohn said, adding that he saw the apparatus later.
Poelstra testified that Cohn told him during a second police interview about the incident "that she used a sex toy on herself and that's what made him feel uncomfortable."
This time, the massage took place on the floor with Cohn lying on his stomach, Garcia "on her knees to my right," he said.
Cohn told the courtroom he did not ask Garcia why she took off her clothes, adding, "I was beginning to get a little uncomfortable about it." He said he voiced concern about her nudity 20 minutes into the massage when he turned over. "I'm afraid, where this is going," he said. He said he cut the massage short, saying, "I'm sorry. I'm uncomfortable. Can we do all this thing for $65?"
Cohn said Garcia agreed with his request and they both put their clothes back on. While at the door parting ways, Cohn said he would like another appointment, but "in a more professional environment."
He also told the courtroom that Garcia "told me she thought I was cute and she'd like to see me again."
During his testimony, Detective Poelstra said Garcia told him Cohn was naked for each of the two massages and that "there was this 'happy ending'" at the first massage in her Maywood home on Oct. 26 but that "an attempt to reach a 'happy ending'" during the second massage in his home was "frustrated" and "it was at that point that he ended the massage."
That "happy ending" was defined as "a release or climax for the customer," Poelstra said on the stand. When asked if that meant "a hand job or masturbation," Poelstra said, "Exactly."
Cohn's testimony was slow and halting. The 72-year-old, who is single, was told several times not to talk over the defense attorney or judge and to let them finish their remarks before giving an answer.
At one point, Cohn testified that Garcia was "busy texting and putting my iPad in her purse," and that he "saw the iPad going in her purse."
He later amended his remarks, saying, "I did not actually see the physical iPad go in her purse. I saw her adjusting things in her purse."
When asked if it was his testimony that sexual activity had not commenced during their second massage, Cohn said, "Yes."
When asked if his iPad contained anything of a sexual nature, Cohn said, "No."
But when pressed to say that sexual innuendo was not a part of their interaction, Cohn said, "I don't recall."
"Do you have any problems with your memory?" Odom asked. "Not that I'm aware of," said Cohn, who had earlier told the courtroom he takes three prescription medications for blood pressure and "gastro issues."
As to why Cohn would seek a massage from a listing on Craigslist, Cohn said, "I have had a physical ailment going on for years." He said his insurance covers his doctor's visits and physical therapy.
Cohn testified that he was "distracted and alarmed" when Ceron came to the door at his home because Garcia had told him her driver would be a girlfriend. In court, he first responded that he didn't see the "stocky Hispanic" man in the courtroom, but then indicated that Ceron, who was wearing a jail-issued jumpsuit, was indeed the man.
He said the time Garcia spent in his house was "less than an hour" and that from the time Ceron knocked on the door to collect Garcia and left was "less than 30 seconds."
Ten minutes later, Cohn said he realized his iPad was missing so he called Garcia and left her a message when she did not answer the phone. He also said he asked for the iPad to be turned over to police "within a half hour of them leaving."
Cohn testified that after his iPad was missing, he received text messages from Garcia "to the effect of 'Mr. Treasurer. I don't know what you're talking about'" and that he'd done "something wrong."
"'You're a public servant. Shame on you,'" he said a text read. He also said Garcia claimed he had insisted on sex.
When he asked her what he could do to get his iPad back, he claims she said he would need to come up with $5,000. He testified when he said he couldn't pay the money, she upped the amount to $6,000 and later $10,000 if he didn't get the money to her by a certain time.
Cohn said Garcia was concerned he was going to give her "fake bills" and that he was "very fearful and afraid to be going around with cash."
The city treasurer said he waited until after the weekend [Nov 3. was a Saturday] when "police personnel were back and proper people were there and I could make a report."
The detective testified that Cohn wasn't sure "if he wanted to pursue this as a criminal incident or just document it" when he contacted Hermosa police, saying he believed Garcia had taken his iPad and was now attempting to extort him.
Working with Hermosa police, Cohn texted Garcia he was on his way to a designated bank. Police intercepted Garcia and Ceron, made the arrests and retrieved Cohn's iPad.
Poelstra said the cell phone recovered from Garcia remains in police possession and that the phone was used to send texts to Cohn the day of the arrests.
Poelstra confirmed reports that the content on the iPad had been wiped clean when it was taken from Garcia's possession. "It was as if it was a brand new iPad," he said.
Hermosa Beach city officials and Cohn have said city financial information was not compromised and in court, Cohn testified that he had the material on his iPad erased from Apple servers and thus from the iPad shortly after he realized it was missing.
Garcia has said Cohn sexually assaulted her during the second massage and Los Angeles County Sheriffs are investigating those claims. No charges have been filed. A phone call to LASD for an update on the case has not been returned.
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