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Former Athens bar owner accused of rape challenges constitutionality of rape victim shield law

David Ellis Ippisch

By Joe Johnson

A man who is accused of raping a woman in one of two bars he owned in downtown Athens in November recently filed a motion asking a Superior Court judge to declare Georgia’s Rape Shield statute unconstitutional.

With prosecutors apparently planning to introduce evidence of David Ellis Ippisch’s sexual history and proclivities, his attorneys argue in the motion that the Rape Shield statute violates the equal protection clauses of the U.S. and Georgia constitutions.

Georgia’s Rape Shield law’s intent is to keep the sexual history and behavior of alleged victims from being used as evidence in a trial, with its purpose being to protect the privacy of the victim, and to encourage rape victims to report offenses and to participate in the prosecution of offenders.

The law forbids the use of “evidence relating to the alleged victim’s past sexual behavior is generally inadmissible.

According to the statute, “past sexual behavior may include, but is not limited to: “evidence of the complaining witness’ marital history, mode of dress, general reputation for promiscuity, non-chastity, or sexual mores contrary to the community standards. Neither the defense nor the prosecution—which may seek to draw attention to the alleged victim’s absence of sexual experience or her chastity—may offer evidence under this statute.”

In essence, the law seeks to prevent victims of sexual assault to be re-victimized in the courtroom.

According to Athens-Clarke police and court documents, Ippisch’s alleged victim, who is identified only as K.P., on Nov. 24 reported that Ippisch raped her at The Hedges on Broad, a bar he owned on East Broad Street next to his other establishment, the 100 Proof bar.

Police  alleged that Ippisch pulled the 21-year-old victim against her will into a bar storage room where he raped her. A detective suggested that Ippisch may have drugged the victim.

Ippish was arrested the following day and a grand jury subsequently indicted him for rape and kidnapping.

In a December probable cause hearing in Magistrate Court, evidence seized by police from Ippisch’s apartment and the bar where the rape allegedly occurred were discussed, including a list on Ippisch’s computer of 94 women he claims he had sex with. Some names were tagged with such terms as "stripper,” “friend,” and “aggressive but interesting.”

Police also reportedly found bondage straps on Ippisch’s bed, which were mentioned in one woman’s statement. The woman said she broke one of the straps during a struggle, and a detective testified that one strap appeared to have been repaired.

One of Ippisch’s three attorneys previously told Classic City News that the sex his client had with K.P. was consensual, and a March motion for bond argued that for several weeks prior to the alleged rape the woman had “aggressively” messaged Ippisch via Snapchat, and rather than being dragged into the bar’s storage room, K.P. had sex with Ippisch on a bar stool on a stage behind a TV projection screen that was within 10 feet of a disc jockey and 15 feet from a security guard.

The motion further noted that there were more than 140 people in the room, with uniformed police officers at the bar’s exit.

It was also noted in the motion that K.P. had indicated she had no motive to fabricate or embellish the rape story, yet her attorney notified Ippisch that she plans to sue him and seek a monetary award.

Ippisch has been denied bond on three tries.

In one of them, attorneys argued that prior to his arrest, the 38-year-old former bar owner had been under the care of a neurologist for symptoms consistent with multiple sclerosis, that his health was declining in jail, and that his continued incarceration prevented him from having a medical procedure that is needed for further diagnosis and treatment of his medical condition.

The failed bond motion also stated that Ippisch suffered economic hardship while incarcerated.

The court filing notes that Ippisch’s bars were closed following his arrest and he was evicted by his landlord, resulting in the loss of jobs for at least 153 people. His businesses in 2019 paid $180,000 in sales taxes and $208,000 in payroll taxes, according to the bond motion.

In the motion that was filed Monday in Clarke County Superior Court, Ippisch’s attorneys argue that the shield law violates the constitution’s equal protection clause because it applies only to women, and not men.

“The inequality stems from archaic and overly broad generalizations about men’s and women’s sexuality: that society will more harshly and unjustly judge a woman for her sexual behaviors and preferences than it will a man; that only women should be shielded from their past sexual decisions; that men face no censure orderisionfor their sex lives; that men only re aggressors and women only are victims.

“Equal protection fails where the law cloaks the private lives of women but unveils the private lives of men...” the motion argues.

On the same day the motion challenging the constitutionality of the state’s Rape Shield law was filed, attorneys filed six other motions, including motions to suppress evidence that was allegedly illegally seized from Ippisch’s home and bar, and also a renewed motion for bond that again cites the defendant’s medical condition.

A hearing on the motions is scheduled for May 15.

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