Stevon Williams was held to answer Friday in connection with two cold case stranger rapes in Berkeley more than a decade ago. Image: Google Maps

A man charged with raping two women in Berkeley more than a decade ago has been ordered by a judge to stand trial following testimony by both women in an Oakland courtroom Thursday.

One of the women said she had been walking to her cousin’s home in 2012 when a stranger accosted her, pushed her into a secluded area and raped her. The other woman said she was raped by a man in 2009 after arranging to have sex with him in exchange for money. Both of the women were in their early 20s when they were attacked.

On Friday, Stevon Williams, who is now 47, was held to answer on all four of the felony counts he had been facing: forcible rape, sodomy by force and two counts of forcible oral copulation.

The Berkeley Police Department had arrested Williams in a San Francisco homeless camp after DNA evidence led cold case sex crimes investigators to him in 2020, authorities said previously.

The criminal case has followed a rather circuitous path since then.

Last year, after a January 2021 hearing involving testimony from several Berkeley police officers, an Alameda County Superior Court judge dismissed charges related to one of the women, citing inconsistencies in what she had told police.

In May of this year, the Alameda County district attorney’s office dismissed those charges and refiled its case — again citing allegations related to both women.

This week, for the first time, both women offered testimony in court as to what had happened to them. They were the only witnesses called to the stand on behalf of the prosecution. The defense called no witnesses.

A 32-year-old woman identified in court as Jane Doe 2 took the stand first on Thursday shortly before noon before Judge Delia Trevino.

The woman said she had grown up in San Francisco but spent summers in Berkeley, where she stayed with a cousin on Haskell Street.

She said she had been walking to her cousin’s place on June 22, 2012, when a man followed her up the street and asked for her name and number.

She ignored him and tried to walk away, she said, but he shoved her through some bushes into a clearing and held a knife up to her throat.

“It was really a cold feeling. It was a feeling I never felt before,” she testified, crying. “I was scared for my life.”

The woman said the man then removed her clothes and forced her, at knifepoint, to perform oral sex. Then he raped her, she told the court.

“I kept saying, ‘Don’t kill me, don’t kill me,'” she recalled.

Eventually, she was able to pull away and run down the street — fully naked — until a neighbor came out to help her, she said.

The woman’s attacker, whom she identified in court as Williams, chased her when she ran, but fled the scene when he realized he couldn’t catch her.

Jane Doe 1 took the stand next, just before 3:45 p.m. Thursday. She said she had grown up in Benicia and was working as a prostitute when Williams assaulted her on Nov. 29, 2009.

The woman, now 36 years old, described how she and Williams had arranged to meet in a location in Berkeley that he had chosen. The situation quickly took a turn when she asked for the money he had agreed to pay, she said.

She said Williams punched her in the forehead, grabbed her hair and forced her to orally copulate him. She tried to get a condom, but he pulled down her pants and raped her.

“I was trying to yell for help,” she testified. “He didn’t like that.”

The woman said she had not wanted to perform oral sex because Williams was aggressive, refused to use a condom and had not paid.

“I was scared,” she said, of “his ability to do more harm, physical harm, to me.”

A neighbor who heard the woman’s cries for help came outside, she said. Williams then broke off the rape, punched her again in the face and ripped her purse out of her grasp, she said.

“I tried to hold on for dear life,” she said. “Once he punched me, I ended up letting go.”

Testimony concluded Thursday at about 4:20 p.m. Judge Trevino told the attorneys she would make her ruling Friday morning after they had a chance to offer closing arguments.

On Friday, defense attorney Daniel Shriro argued that both women had struggled to remember various details.

Most notably, he said, the woman from the 2012 rape had told police her attacker had a long scar on the side of his face.

“Mr. Williams does not have such a scar,” Shriro told the judge. “That is decisive.”

He also noted that the woman from the 2009 rape had been unable to recall, during court testimony, whether she had performed oral sex during her sexual assault.

That “indicates how much her memory has faded over the years,” Shriro said.

Prosecutor Colleen Clark dismissed the inconsistencies as minor.

“She was consistent on her attack, on what happened and on what the defendant did to her,” Clark told the judge, regarding Jane Doe 2.

And Jane Doe 1 had testified — after reviewing her initial statement to police — that she did, in fact, recall being forced to perform oral sex on Williams.

Ultimately, Judge Trevino found the evidence convincing enough to hold Williams to answer and send the case forward to trial.

“There are some discrepancies,” she said. “There are some questions left to be addressed.”

But she said, for the purposes of this week’s preliminary hearing — which requires a lower standard of proof than a jury verdict — that the evidence had been sufficient to hold Williams to answer in connection with all of the charges and enhancements filed against him.

Williams remains in custody with a bail of $400,000 and is scheduled for arraignment July 22.

According to Alameda County Superior Court records online, Williams has convictions dating back to 1999 for robbery, receiving stolen property, petty theft with priors and possession of cocaine for sale.

Emilie Raguso (senior editor, news) joined the Berkeleyside team in 2012. She covers politics, public safety and development. In 2017, Emilie was named Journalist...