A jury returned Wednesday with a not-guilty verdict in the trial of a man who had been accused of sexually assaulting a young female in a Roswell barbershop.
Following a two-day jury trial in New Mexico District Court and an hour of deliberations, the jurors found Youness Benib, 32, “not guilty” of criminal sexual penetration, second degree, of a child 13-18.
Benib — who at the time was a barber at Top Level Barber Shop on West Walnut Street — was alleged by the state to have forced a 16-year-old patron on March 14 to engage in sexual activity while they were alone in the shop.
The defense conceded the two engaged in sexual contact, but that it was consensual.
Benib, the accuser and seven other people testified during the trial.
The accuser testified that on the day of the incident in question, she went to the barbershop to get a hair cut. She went there twice before and Benib had previously cut her hair.
She stated the shop was busy that day and after a long wait, Benib cut her hair.
The accuser stated she was unable to get the chance to pay for her haircut because a woman came in with a child for a haircut. The accuser stated that Benib, who is not fluent in English and speaks primarily Arabic, asked the accuser to help him communicate with the customers about what kind of haircut they wanted.
The accuser stated she remained in the shop after the other customers left and tried to pay for her haircut. The accuser said Benib instructed her to come into the back room, which she said she did, and sat down on a couch. She said he then touched her, kissed her and began forcibly performing sexual acts on her.
The accuser said when it was over and she headed for the doorway to leave, Benib came out of the restroom and told her, “Don’t tell nobody.”
She testified that she then told her roommate about what happened and the roommate’s boyfriend called the police.
Benib testified that on the day of the reported incident, the accuser did come in for a haircut and that he did cut her hair.
He testified that while he was cutting her hair, the accuser touched him three times, including once beneath his stomach and that he believed the touching was intentional on the accuser’s part.
Benib said a woman with a child then came into the barbershop to have her hair cut, followed by a male customer who came in for a haircut. Benib denied ever asking the accuser to help him communicate with patrons.
Benib said he did not ask her to pay immediately after a haircut, because he thought when she left that she would pay. He said the accuser was sitting in a nearby barber chair in the shop while he was cutting the hair of the child and then the male customer.
Benib said after the two other customers left, he began to clean the shop. While cleaning, he went into a room to dispose of some hair in a garbage bin. Benib testified that when he turned around, she was standing in front of the doorway and kissed him.
“We started kissing each other,” Benib said. He said she initiated sexual acts, but they did not have intercourse. Benib said he did not know how old the accuser was.
Benib testified that when they were done, the accuser tried to leave the shop and he told her to pay for her haircut. He denied forcing himself on her.
DNA was found on both the accuser and Benib, though not a sufficient quantity to test. However, there was saliva from Benib found on her neck.
Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.