Accused serial rapist goes on trial in Cook County

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The long and winding road to justice for ex-tanning salon proprietor Marc Winner and the women he is accused of raping finally made it to trial in a Cook County courtroom on Friday

An ABC7 I-Team Investigation
The long and winding road to justice for ex-tanning salon proprietor Marc Winner and the women he is accused of raping finally made it to trial in a Cook County courtroom on Friday afternoon.

Winner, 47, attacked at least nine women the past 17 years according to prosecutors but is being tried initially in one of the sexual assaults.

The victim, identified as J.B. in court, was attacked on July 17, 2009 according to prosecutors after running into Winner in a downtown bar. She is a former employee of Winner's tanning salon business. She told police that Winner plied her with alcohol and cocaine that evening.

Winner was described as a "master manipulator" during opening statements by Cook County assistant state's attorney Mikki Miller. While in Winner's tanning salon, Miller said J.B. called her sister and said "I'm about to be raped."

According to the prosecutor, they then moved to Winner's nearby apartment where he held J.B. down, bit her breast and raped her twice. "The facts are simple," Miller told the judge. "Marc Winner is a rapist."

The case is "about perception," according to Winner's attorney Steven J. Weinberg in his opening statement. There are "gray areas" when men and women are in "complicated" relationships, Weinberg said. When Winner and J.B. were together that 2009 evening, her perception had been "altered from the alcohol and cocaine."

Several of Winner's alleged victims were either employees or customers at his now-shuttered tanning parlor in Chicago's West Loop. He faces multiple felony counts. If convicted, Friday's prosecution alone could result in Winner being sentenced to prison for up to 37 years.

Prosecutors have called Winner a "threat to the safety of women." He has denied all of the allegations and is free on bond. The bench trial is being heard by Cook County Criminal Court Judge Carol M. Howard.

Openings statements began on Friday afternoon. After first disclosing the serial rape investigation in April, 2016, the I-Team on Friday was given court permission to record the Winner trial.

Judge Howard allowed ABC7 to record audio of the proceedings-as opening statements began in court-17 years after the start of Winner's legal odyssey. That is when he was arrested on charges that he attacked a woman after several drinks in a suburban bar. In that case, Lesley Barton told the I-Team that Winner picked her up and threw her onto a tanning bed.

"He's pulling down my pants as I'm pulling them up and I'm pulling at his hand and the fog is getting stronger and stronger. I kept saying 'no, no means no.' And I'm certain he's going to kill me," said Barton. "I do recall being raped, I just don't recall how much time it was," Barton said.

Winner was arrested on suspicion of criminal sexual assault in that case, but later he was convicted of a reduced charge of battery and given probation. Authorities say he continued sexually assaulting women, many times using the same m/o, and is currently being tried for attacks in 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2015.

The I-Team first reported on Winner in 2016 as investigators were building a serial rape case against him.

Documents obtained by the I-Team then revealed several women who claimed they were raped by Winner and another who said he "strangled her" after she escaped his apartment. Winner is not charged in all of the cases, but prosecutors have said they want to establish a pattern of criminal conduct by pointing out similarities in the women's statements. Trial will resume on Monday afternoon and is expected to last until late next week.
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