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Defendant’s outburst delays end of sex assault trial in Nevada County Superior Court

By Liz Kellar | Staff Writer

Wesley Panighetti is “every woman’s worst nightmare” and a sociopathic monster, said prosecutor Helenaz Moteabbed Hill.

According to Hill, the 62-year-old Panighetti victimized and abused his victim for years during an intermittent BDSM relationship that ended in non-consensual sexual assault.

Panighetti is a career criminal and a sexual predator, Hill told a jury during closing arguments of his trial in Nevada County Superior Court on March 3. Panighetti is facing felony charges of sodomy by use of force, forcible oral copulation, criminal threats, first-degree burglary and dissuading a witness, as well as one misdemeanor count of battery, Nevada County Superior Court records state.

Hill was unable to finish her argument that Wednesday, after repeated interruptions by Panighetti ended in an outburst that caused Judge Robert Tice-Raskin to clear the courtroom.

Tice-Raskin eventually dismissed the jury after admonishing them to disregard Panighett’s statements that he was being “muzzled” and railroaded by Hill’s lies. Hill is expected to conclude her rebuttal argument March 4.

Panighetti has pleaded not guilty.

Panighetti’s attorney, Paul Comiskey, sought to cast doubt on the portrayal of the alleged victim as a “poor beat-down terrorized woman” and argued his client had every reason to believe in her consent.

That issue of consent has been the crux of the arguments of both prosecution and defense. According to Hill, a BDSM relationship — bondage, domination, sadomasochism — can exist with the consent of both parties, but that requires that both are playing “freely and voluntarily” on the same field. That was not the case between Panighetti and the victim, she said.

“This is a case about manipulation and control,” Hill said, telling the jury Panighetti was the mastermind who penned a contract as well as a “letter of apology” that he then coerced the woman into signing. “No one in their right mind, who was not in a state of duress, who was not in a state of vulnerability, would have (signed) this,” she said.

The language of the contract and of texts sent by Panighetti show the level of control he exerted over the woman, Hill argued.

When the woman contacted Panighetti in 2020 after a long break in their relationship, Hill said she was bipolar and had stopped taking her medication, leading her to act impulsively. She believed Panighetti was a “changed man” and wanted a loving relationship with her, Hill said.

The defense sought to counter-act the perception of the alleged victim as naive and fearful, telling the jury the woman had a degree in business and in social work, and should have been familiar with contract law.

Why would she have contacted Panighetti in 2020 if he had done “all those terrible things?” asked Comiskey. The attorney also cited texts between Panighetti and the woman, repeatedly referring to one lewd message in which she invited him to come over and have sex.

Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at lizk@theunion.com.

Wesley Panighetti

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