Marc Winner, former West Loop tanning salon owner, guilty in rape case

CHICAGO (Sun-Times Media Wire) - The former owner of a West Loop tanning salon was convicted Tuesday of the 2009 rape of a former employee.

The ruling by Cook County Judge Carol Howard comes after a week-long bench trial that included testimony from the victim, Justine Bour, and a second woman who claims Marc Winner raped her in the same apartment in 2012, the Chicago Sun-Times is reporting.

The case was the first time Winner, who faces sexual assault charges in three other cases, has stood trial.

In a split verdict, Winner was found guilty of one count of criminal sexual abuse and one count of criminal sexual assault, with the judge acquitting him of a second count of sexual assault and reducing the severity of the sexual abuse count. Winner, who had been free on $625,000 bond, was led out of the courtroom by a sheriff’s deputy.

Winner was fighting back sobs from the moment Howard entered the courtroom Tuesday, and spent the hearing red-faced, staring into his lap. Seated alongside her sister and supporters in the front row of the glassed-in courtroom gallery Bour, 32, nodded along as Howard outlined the evidence in the case.

After the verdict, Bour, who was identified in court as “J.B” to give her a measure of anonymity, told reporters she was thrilled that a guilty verdict had ended her nine-year ordeal, and hoped other rape victims would take solace in her story.

“I’d like to say to any victim of sexual assault, that I hope you can hear my story and maintain hope,” Bour said. “Despite the passage of time, despite obstacles, despite what seems like the end of the road, don’t give up. Persevere.”

Bour had testified that Winner dragged her across West Madison Street from his now-defunct salon, Soleil, to his apartment and violently attacked her in July 2009. Winner testified that the encounter was consensual, and that Bour grew hysterical and ran from his apartment after he made a crass comment when their evening became intimate.

The defense team raised questions about the accuracy of Bour’s account, questioning why she didn’t try to run away from Winner when he was walking or pulling her across Madison Street. Defense attorneys also pointed to her use of cocaine with Winner that night as a reason her memory or perceptions had been clouded.

In closing arguments, defense attorney Steve Weinberg offered a frank assessment of his client’s behavior that night: caddish, but not criminal.

“He might be a pig, but he’s not been proven a rapist,” Weinberg said.

Tuesday, Howard also said she found it unlikely that Winner would have been able to drag Bour back to his apartment against her will, and ruled that she willingly went to his apartment.

“Having said that, that doesn’t mean she could not have been forcibly assaulted when she got back into the apartment,” Howard said.

The defense case also was an indictment of investigation itself, pointing out not just purported errors by detectives, but what seems like sheer negligence. The night Bour called police from a grocery store near Winner’s apartment, patrol officers drove her to the hospital, but no one returned to canvass the area for witnesses or to retrieve surveillance video.

The first detective assigned to the case didn’t begin her investigation until a month had passed, blaming an antiquated CPD system for notifying detectives of new cases in place at the time. The same detective also let the case languish for nearly four years, until a second detective investigating a tip about another assault by Winner noticed Bour’s case was still open and DNA test results had been sitting at the State Police crime lab for years.

Winner was charged with Bour’s rape in 2013, but a judge dismissed the case, finding Bour’s account of the attack unlikely. Winner was only charged again in the case after another victim came forward about a 2015 assault.

Winner faces a sentence of between four and 15 years for the sexual assault charge and up to three more years for the sexual abuse charge, and his three other cases remain pending.

Ahead of the trial, he had refused a plea deal that would have seen him serve 15 years for Bour’s case, three years for a second case, in exchange for prosecutors dropping charges in the two remaining cases.

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