Charges dismissed in alleged rape case in Forestville

Prosecutors on Monday dismissed rape and kidnapping charges against a Guerneville man whose cellphone records indicate he was falsely accused by a woman with whom he had a consensual sexual encounter on the grounds of El Molino High School, his attorney said.

David Joshua Kocalis, 24, could have been sentenced to life in prison if convicted on the worst of six felony charges filed against him after the 18-year-old woman told authorities she was abducted at knifepoint and raped by a masked stranger.

But while his attorney is calling for criminal charges against Kocalis’ accuser for suspicion of filing a false police report, prosecutors already have decided not to press charges, saying the matter is not sufficiently clear-cut.

“With everything we have in front of us at this point, the information, we do not feel like there’s sufficient evidence to prove charges against any other parties beyond a reasonable doubt,” Chief Deputy District Attorney Brian Staebell said.

But Kocalis’ lawyer, Evan Zelig, said the clear fiction of the woman’s account and the lingering ramifications for his client warrant action.

“She just made up a story,” he said outside court Monday. “Very scary.”

Zelig said Kocalis had known the woman for several months, after becoming acquainted at the Santa Rosa Transit Mall, and had been in communication with her for some period when she initiated plans for them to get together on the evening of Saturday, Aug. 30.

Kocalis, driving a borrowed Porsche SUV, picked her up and they drove to the Forestville high school seeking privacy for their tryst. Afterward, he dropped the woman off at home, Zelig said.

She reported the alleged attack a short time later.

The next morning, on his way home from a local casino, Kocalis was stopped at gunpoint in Forestville after a sheriff’s deputy saw him driving a Porsche like the one seen in surveillance footage taken at the high school. The deputy immediately saw a shrunken-head tattoo on Kocalis that his accuser had described for authorities.

Officials said early on that the woman was shown photos of her alleged assailant and eventually recognized him as someone she had met a few times.

But Zelig said cellphone records indicated meeting up for sex was her idea, and that she later tried to delete the text exchange.

Staebell said when his office learned of evidence that might clear Kocalis, it moved quickly to get Kocalis into court and have him released from jail pending a review of the case.

On Monday, during a brief hearing before Judge Robert LaForge, Staebell said only that a thorough review turned up “insufficient evidence” to prosecute the case. But Zelig said he was drafting a letter laying out what he said was abundant evidence that the woman fabricated a story about “this stranger who attacked her with a mask and a knife.”

He noted that his client spent 17 days in jail, faced the possibility of life imprisonment, had news accounts linking him to a violent rape and will have the arrest on his record going into the future.

Zelig said it appeared the woman got into trouble for missing her foster parents’ curfew and was angry Kocalis would not loan her $20, though whether she had a deeper motivation for accusing him was not clear.

“This was different from somebody just having a few facts wrong,” he said. “She just completely made up facts.”

But Staebell said there remained evidence that was consistent with the woman’s account, muddying what Zelig suggested was a clear-cut case of fiction.

And he said prosecutors considered whether filing charges against her would make other sexual assault victims less inclined to come forward, though that was “a factor, not the only factor.”

“There’s inconsistent information out there, and we don’t feel like we could prove the charges against her beyond a reasonable doubt.” Staebell said.

The woman’s name has not been released.

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