GREAT FALLS – The alleged victims of a Thomas Carnival worker accused of sexual assault testified throughout the day Tuesday.
Roberto Salaman-Garcia is accused of sexually assaulting four females, including two who were under the age of 14, at the Montana State Fair in July of 2018. He pleaded not guilty to two felony and two misdemeanor counts of sexual assault last August.
Katie Cunningham, a detective with the Great Falls Police Department, took the stand to describe what happened last summer.
Cunningham said her family went to the Montana State Fair one evening in July of 2018.
“We decided to go on some of the rides so we went over to the kiddie area, which is kind of on the southeast side of the fairgrounds,” Cunningham said.
The family enjoyed a few rides before getting on to the Speedway Ride. Cunningham said she put one child in the car behind her, then got into a different car with her other child.
She said she saw Salaman-Garcia walking around the ride checking seat belts.
“As he got to me, I did not think for one minute he would reach inside my car because I was an adult and I am on a child’s ride. It is very clear my buckle is buckled,” Cunningham said.
She said Salaman-Garcia then groped her between the legs.
Cunningham told the court it happened quickly and she shut down afterwards. While the ride was going, Cunningham said she convinced herself not to say anything as she did not want to ruin the night for her children.
“Not only that, I did not want to go to my colleagues or people that I work with. I did not want to do that and I knew there was a possibility to come talk to thirteen strangers about the most intimate parts of my body and how I feel,” Cunningham said.
She also did not want to testify in front of a judge or prosecutors as they are people she testifies in front of for work.
Cunningham said she wanted to convince herself it was an accident.
“Though when I looked down, I knew there was no possible way that it was an accident,” she said.
After seeing children on the ride, Cunningham decided to report the incident because she did not know if he had done this to others.
In August, Cunningham decided to bring her story to the media. She chose to identify herself and discuss the incident publicly to encourage other sexual assault victims to do the same.
The other alleged victims took the stand following Cunningham’s testimony. The trial is expected to last four days.
Reporting by Margaret DeMarco for MTN News