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Trial of ex-River Rat kicks off in Albany

An attorney for former River Rats player Robert Hughes said today in an Albany County court his client did indeed have sexual contact with a Bethlehem woman, but characterized the encounter as consensual and not the sexual assault alleged by prosecutors.

Frankly, they did what couples on a one-night stand do. It's not more than that, it's not less than that, Robert Molloy said.

Molloy and Albany County Assistant District Attorney Shannon Sarfoh delivered opening statements to jurors today in the trial of Hughes, who stands charged with committing a criminal sex act in the first and third degrees.

He faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted.

The two sides agreed on some details. Hughes met the then-39-year-old woman at My Place, a sports bar and restaurant on Delaware Avenue in Delmar, on the evening of October 18, 2008. The woman was there with friends, but sat next to Hughes in the bar. The two struck up a conversation, and when her friends left she elected to stay.

What happened next is in dispute. Prosecutors allege Hughes, then 20, left with the woman and returned to his apartment on Elm Street, where he sodomized her while she was unable to give consent due to being disoriented after a night of drinking, which may have interacted with her prescribed antidepressant drugs.

Sarfoh said the alleged victim's memory of the night is incomplete.

"There's a block of time she doesn't recall," she said to the jury. "[The victim] can't come in here and tell you exactly what happened."

Sarfoh said testimony and physical evidence, including DNA recovered from the victim the day after the alleged attack, will fill in those blanks.

"That, ultimately, is the proof in this case," she said.

The defense's version of events was a departure to what Hughes had originally told investigators, when he denied any sexual contact. Molloy explained his client's "inaccurate statement" to police as a way to defer the shame of a one night stand with a woman nearly twice his age and also avoid harming his sports career.

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