Paul Gregoire and Ugur Nedim
A man convicted of repeatedly sexually assaulting a teenager in Hyde Park in Sydney has lost his appeal case. Joseph Stephen Rosenburg argued that the 18-year-old girl had lured him into the park in an elaborate scam to get his DNA.
The 52-year-old took his case to the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal, where he represented himself before the three judge panel. Rosenburg claimed he had not been properly represented during his trial, as his barrister didn’t put forward his “scam” argument.
The bizarre claims of the appellant
But his case was thrown out of court, with Justice Monika Schmidt branding his arguments as “incoherent, contradictory and irrational.”
Rosenburg claimed the 18-year-old woman had left a nightclub with her boyfriend’s friend on the August night in 2013. But to escape ridicule, she had “consensually” had sex with Rosenburg in order to get his DNA.
He said the teenager the saw “a window of opportunity to cry rape.”
The court found there was no evidence to support Rosenburg’s claims. It also found that his barrister had given him adequate representation during his trial and that the jury in Downing Centre District Court was right in finding him guilty on February 4, 2015.
The assault in Hyde Park
The District Court heard that on the night of August 30, 2013, the 18-year-old woman had left the Exchange Hotel on Oxford Street in a taxi accompanied by a man. She’d been drinking heavily during evening and, on feeling ill, got out of the cab and vomited.
Feeling sick and disorientated, she lay down on a ledge in front of the Starbuck’s across the road from Hyde Park. This is where Rosenburg approached her just after midnight and, finding her in that state, put his hand up her skirt.
The teenager tried to get away from him by walking into the park, but Rosenburg followed her. While she lay sick under a tree, he forced her to have anal and oral sex.
The prosecution described the assault as “prolonged and predatory.” The teenager asked Rosenburg whether he was going to kill her, to which he replied, “No, I’m not going to kill you if you go with it.” She pleaded with him not to hurt her.
A cry for help
During the attack, the young woman sent out a garbled text message to a friend that read, “I’m being tapes, help.” This was accepted as evidence by Judge Stephen Hanley that the teenager was trying to alert her friend to the rape, but her phone’s autocorrect had distorted the message.
The recipient of the text testified at the trial that she called her friend back after receiving the disturbing message. The disorientated victim said she was in the city but didn’t know where she was, so her friend told her to “stay in the light” and find a street sign.
The friend then drove from her home in Sydney’s south-west to pick her up. During the drive, the friend continued to talk with the hysterical woman over the phone. “He hurt me. He hurt me,” she said. Her friend asked, “What do you mean?” The teenager replied, “He raped me.”
In an hysterical state
On arrival at St James train station, the friend found the teenager curled up in a ball on the ground with her makeup smeared over her face. She had sticks stuck in her hair and scratches on her legs.
“When she first saw me … she reached and grabbed my arm and didn’t want to let go,” the victim’s friend told the court, adding that the woman was crying hysterically and hyperventilating.
The friend then drove her to Liverpool Hospital. DNA that was found on the 18-year-old’s underwear and her body matched Rosenburg’s profile.
Arguments at the trial
In his closing address, crown prosecutor Craig Patrick submitted that it would have been obvious to Rosenburg that the teenager was heavily intoxicated, and that he took advantage of the situation. He said Rosenburg “did what he wanted to do and he knew that she was not consenting.”
Rosenburg’s barrister, Ken Averre, conceded that there was no dispute over whether the DNA was his client’s. He argued the woman was not credible and that her evidence was unreliable. He urged the jury to set aside any moral judgements about his client’s behaviour, arguing that the sex was consensual.
A serial sex offender
During his sentencing hearing, it was revealed that Rosenburg had a history of sexual offences dating back two decades.
In 1993, he was found to have crawled through a window of a Crow’s Nest home and into the bedroom of a 5-year-old girl. He exposed himself and then performed oral sex on her.
The girl told police that Rosenburg said he’d return the next night with a bag of lollies, before he crawled back out the window.
Rosenburg was back in court in 2007, after being seen watching two girls through a window playing inside their home in Annandale. He walked over to the window and tried to give the girls, aged 9 and 10, his phone number.
He was also taken into custody for striking his sister’s partner in the face with a metal bar on Christmas Day 2006. He was found guilty of recklessly causing grievous bodily harm.
District Court sentencing
Judge Hanley described Rosenburg’s behaviour as “predatory” during the sentencing hearing. The judge found that Rosenburg “was motivated by his own sexual gratification and had no regard of the discomfort and humiliation experienced by his victim.”
His Honour remarked that during the assault, the victim had repeatedly pleaded with Rosenburg, asking him to stop, but the offender continued, replying, “Shh.” He also found that Rosenburg had shown “no contrition at all” and was intent on blaming the victim.
Rosenburg was sentenced to a non-parole period of eight years and three months, which was confirmed on appeal.