Woman testifies in sexual assault trial against former Istanbul Sofra owner
The lawyer for a former Pittsburgh restaurant owner accused of sexual assault tried Thursday afternoon to undermine the testimony of the alleged victim while she recounted the terror of finding a stranger in her bed.
Lee Rothman asked the woman if, once she went to her bedroom shortly after 1 a.m. on May 15, she was waiting up for Adnan Pehlivan.
“Absolutely not,” she said.
He asked if she opened the door for Pehlivan.
“Never,” she said.
Pehlivan, 47, is accused of stalking the woman and her friends as they walked from a bar to their home and then breaking in and sexually assaulting her in her bedroom. She told police she woke to find Pehlivan performing oral sex on her.
Pehlivan owned the now-closed Istanbul Sofra restaurant at South Braddock and Forbes avenues in Regent Square.
Rothman pointed out that the alleged victim never refused any of the drinks Pehlivan bought, which she affirmed. He pointed out that she never paid for any of the drinks. She agreed. He noted that she never told him to stop buying her drinks. The woman confirmed that she did not.
Security footage from inside the bar shown Wednesday indicated the women entered the bar about 10:48 p.m., with Pehlivan entering about two minutes later. By 11:40 p.m., he’s bought the alleged victim and her friends four shots of alcohol – unsolicited, the woman testified. He went on to buy them another round of shots and mixed drinks before the women left the bar around 12:30 a.m.
The alleged victim confirmed to Rothman that Pehlivan was polite throughout their interactions — he said the woman was “leaning in” to Pehlivan and talking “quite close to him” — but that Pehlivan initiated those interactions. He asked the woman if she invited Pehlivan back to her home.
“Absolutely not,” she said.
That testimony came after the alleged victim had earlier walked the jury step by step through her night out with friends, through waking up to find the defendant performing oral sex on her, through calling police and her trip to the hospital.
Looking from the witness stand at photos projected by Assistant District Attorney Edward Sheid, the alleged victim described entering on the main floor of the home and eating pizza with her friends before going downstairs to her basement apartment.
She described getting into bed, focusing on the pattern on her bed sheets because she felt a little dizzy. She said woke sometime later and “there was oral sex being performed on me.” She later found the underwear she’d had on placed on the bed beside where her head would have been.
She testified that she grabbed the man she recognized as Pehilvan by the hair and pulled his head up. She said he tried to run, and she went after him, grabbing on to his T-shirt collar and refusing to let go. He pushed her, she said, and she fell into a laundry basket where she watched him run out the door, close it, and then reach back into grab his jacket from her dresser.
Later, the alleged victim’s roommate testified that from her bedroom two floors above, she and a friend heard a crash followed by the victim screaming. The two ran to the alleged victim’s bedroom, she testified, and found her crouched on the floor, “inconsolably screaming and crying.”
The roommate called police, and prosecutors played the call in court. The alleged victim can be heard screaming in the background, and at one point she can be heard screaming, “He followed us.”
Rothman pointed out discrepancies between the alleged victim’s testimony and testimony she’d given during a preliminary hearing last year: She testified previously she’d had three beers before the trio went to Kopy’s, whereas she said Thursday she’d had two; during the preliminary hearing she testified she was unsure if the window had been locked but said Thursday she was sure it was locked.
Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey Manning called a brief recess around 2:30 p.m. when the woman broke down in tears in response to a question by Rothman.
When court reconvened, Rothman asked if, upon finding the man she alleged was Pehlivan assaulting her, she moved to kick him. She said: “no.”
Rothman is set to begin cross examination of the alleged victim’s roommate when court reconvenes Friday morning.
Megan Guza is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Megan at 412-380-8519, email@example.com or via Twitter .