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Lerman trial: Brittany Higgins and Bruce Lerman talk about 45 minutes in Parliament House

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A jury will deliberate for forty-five minutes as they are asked to decide whether or not Bruce Lerman raped his former co-star, Brittany Higgins.

Over the past two weeks, the jury has heard various accounts of how the time window unfolded in the early hours of March 23, 2019.

Lerman is accused of raping Ms Higgins in the office of minister Linda Reynolds after a night of drinking with work colleagues.

He pleaded not guilty to having sex without her consent and being reckless with her consent.

EVENING

At the time, both were colleagues in the office of then-Defense Industry Secretary Linda Reynolds.

With an election looming that no one believed the Coalition would win, Ms Higgins told the court the group, which met at The Dock in Canberra, were “lamenting” they would be out of a job in six weeks.

As a witness, Ms. Higgins recalled that she invited Mr. Lerman because she wanted to improve their “adversarial” relationship.

The court heard he did not join the group in the packed bar when they started at around 7.30pm.

Instead, the court was told, Mr Lerman went to the Kingston Hotel with then-spokesman Peter Dutton Austin Wenke for “steak and beer”.

The pair later headed to The Dock to join their colleagues for what Mr Lerman told police was a “defensive event”.

“I treated it as a parliamentary event … I did not proceed,” he said.

Upon their arrival, CCTV footage showed the court, Ms Higgins and friend Lauren Gane joined the men at a separate table away from the group.

During her four-and-a-half hours at The Dock, Ms Higgins said she had about 10 to 11 drinks. Mr Lehrmann told police he had purchased at least two rounds of ammunition.

“I wasn’t drunk at all,” he said.

By the time the night was over, the foursome had taken the evening to 88mph at a central Canberra nightclub. Mr Lerman told police he recommended the place to boogie because he “really likes ’80s music”.

In her police interview, Ms Higgins said she remembered drinking shots at the club and was probably “as drunk as I’ve ever been in my life” as she had no recollection of anything else.

It was here that Mr Lerman said in his police interview that it was “possible” the pair could have engaged in what police described as “intimate behaviour”.

Arrival at the Parliament

Around 1:30 a.m., Ms. Higgins and Mr. Lerman shared an Uber. Hence their accounts of the evening differ.

In his police interview, Mr Lerman said he had deliberately left his keys on his desk in the Houses of Parliament before leaving. He also remembered that he had to “come to the office to do something” while at the Dock earlier in the evening.

He said Ms Higgins also said she needed to get back to work and he acted like a “gentleman” in offering to share the journey there.

But Ms Higgins told the court there was “no reason” for her to be there.

They also had no security clearances. Mr. Lehrmann said Ms. Higgins signed herself. When she was shown the letter from the evening, she told police it was not her handwriting.

CCTV footage shown in court showed Ms Higgins struggling to put on her shoes.

Security guard Nicola Anderson testified she told Ms Higgins not to worry, so the former Liberal staffer walked alongside Mr Lerman, black high heels in hand.

Ms Higgins told the court she “doesn’t remember” going through security and going through the ministerial wing to their office.

Inside the minister’s office

Interviewed by police in court, Ms Higgins said she remembers sitting on a window ledge looking out over the Prime Minister’s yard.

From there she passed out. Ms. Higgins recalled waking up moments later with pain in her thigh from Mr. Lerman’s knee digging into her.

“I told him no. I told him to stop,” she said in an interview.

“I don’t know why, but it felt like it had been going on for a while (and I) was an afterthought. I was suddenly there, and it didn’t matter.”

She told the court she could not remember whether Mr Lerman took her to the sofa in the ministerial suite or whether she went there herself.

Ms Higgins said he gave her a strange look after he “finished”. She also told the court that after he left, she passed out and didn’t wake up until a security guard did a welfare check on Saturday morning.

Mr. Lerman denies ever having sex with Ms. Higgins.

“It just didn’t happen,” he told police in a grand jury interview.

After the couple entered the office, he said, Mr. Lerman turned left toward his desk and did not see Ms. Higgins again.

He said she went into Senator Reynolds’ office and he assumed she went to her desk from there.

“I got what I need for the weekend. I also went through some folders for questions, Mr. Lerman said.

Afterward, he told police, he went out the back door closest to his desk and called an Uber, and didn’t check to see where Ms. Higgins was.

At about 2:33 a.m., CCTV footage showed Mr Lerman throwing his temporary pass at security guard Mark Fairweather at the exit.

A minute later, his Uber arrived and took him home.

The Crown will close its case in court next week, and the defense is expected to close fairly soon after that.

The jury will be reduced from 16 to 12. From there, deliberations will begin on whether there is enough evidence to convict Lerman.

Originally published as A crucial 45 minutes in Parliament for the rape case

https://www.cairnspost.com.au/breaking-news/key-45-minutes-in-parliament-to-be-considered-in-rape-case/news-story/b3aa1c0c5430b088be7e6a58e398bf6b

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