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Women Appeal Suit Against Adult Store Owner

March 25, 2014, 5:57 PM by Ben Dunsmoor

Women Appeal Suit Against Adult Store Owner
David Eliason | March 2013


Three women who lost their sexual assault and harassment lawsuit against a former adult store owner are taking their case to the South Dakota Supreme Court.

Megan Ruschenberg, Jessica Cornelius and Heather Rensch are appealing their lawsuit against former Annabelle's and Olivia's owner David Eliason because they say several statements that were allowed during the trial tainted the jury.

"These ladies were entitled to not a perfect trial but a fair trial and they did not get a fair trial," Aaron Eisland, an attorney for the three women, said.

Eliason never faced any criminal charges and a jury cleared him of the claims in the lawsuit last year.

READ STORY: Jury Clears Eliason Of All Allegations

Eisland says information about Megan Ruschenberg's abortion following an alleged sexual encounter with Eliason should never have been allowed during the trial, claiming it prejudiced the jury.

Eisland adds that inaccurate testimony from one of the store's co-owner's about Eliason being cleared of criminal charges also impacted jurors. The judge ultimately told jurors not to consider that testimony.

"Those two things are as certain as if two elephants walked in and sat next to me right here. Once they entered into the courtroom, once you get that picture into your mind, they don't leave," Eisland said.

However, Chief Justice David Gilbertson questioned Eisland about information involving the abortion, which was included in the original lawsuit filed against Eliason.

"If it wasn't relevant, why did you put it in the complaint?" Gilbertson asked Eisland during the arguments Tuesday.

"Your honor as I stand here today, I don't know. It was a fact and we wanted to lay out the facts very clearly of what happened in this case," Eisland responded.

An attorney for Annabelle's and Olivia's says jurors heard both sides fairly during the trial and their decision should be respected.

"They were given a chance to go to court, to tell their story before a tried and true jury of South Dakota citizens, before a judge who carefully analyzed the evidence on a very difficult case, and the jury with a special detailed interrogatory made its determination," Annabelle's and Olivia's attorney Mike Luce said.

Attorneys for the women want a new trial in this case.

The justices will make that decision at a later date.

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