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Ex-cop found guilty of rape; he blamed Zoloft for his actions

June 13, 2012 | 11:44 am

The jury deliberating the fate of a former Westminster police detective accused of raping a waitress has rejected a controversial "Zoloft defense," finding the defendant guilty of all seven charges.

The jury of eight women and four men began deliberations late Tuesday and reached the verdict Wednesday morning. It found the defendant, Anthony Nicholas Orban, a Marine veteran of the Iraq War, guilty of two counts of rape, two counts of forced oral copulation, two of sexual penetration with a foreign object, one count of making a criminal threat, and a sentence enhancement of using a firearm in commission of a kidnapping.

Orban faces a sanity hearing before sentencing.

LIVE CHAT: Discuss Zoloft verdict at 9 a.m. Thursday

Defense attorney James Blatt had argued that Orban was rendered "unconscious" by use of the antidepressant, and therefore was not responsible for his actions in the brutal 2010 attack in Fontana.

A defense psychiatrist testified that Orban had stopped taking the prescribed antidepressant, then resumed it at full dose, provoking a psychotic break during which he was not fully aware of his actions.

But prosecutors said such a defense was "baloney" that ran counter to medical consensus on the drug's effects. Orban had been out drinking and seeking sexual encounters before he kidnapped the victim at gunpoint and made her drive to a Fontana storage facility, where he raped her.

"He was a highly trained officer who wanted to have sex. He had sex on the mind. Don't forget that,"  Deputy Dist. Atty. Debbie Ploghaus told jurors in her closing arguments earlier this week.

The woman, then 25 and working as a waitress at Ontario Mills Mall, testified that Orban chambered a round in his semi-automatic service pistol, shoving the barrel deep into her mouth as tears rolled down her cheeks. "He said if I cried, he would kill me," the victim told jurors. "Then he pulled the gun out and said, 'I think we'll continue this in the desert.'"

When Orban was distracted by an incoming cellphone call, the woman said, she jumped out of the car and ran to safety at a nearby liquor store.

Orban's attorney, James Blatt of Los Angeles, said the assault ran counter to a life spent protecting community and country. The only plausible explanation for the defendant's behavior, Blatt argued, was the potent effects of Zoloft, which sent Orban spiraling into an "unconscious" delirium. "At the time he was not aware, not aware of the torturous things he had done,'' Blatt told the jury.


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Photo: Anthony Nicholas Orban, right, a former Westminster police detective, listens to testimony in May at his trial. Credit: Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times