January 9, 2014 Updated: January 9, 2014 at 10:00 am
Is he responsible for a horrific rape that nearly killed a Colorado Springs woman - or a patsy tapped by his co-defendants to shoulder the blame?
An El Paso County jury on Wednesday heard clashing portrayals of Jasim Mohammed Hasin Ramadon, a 21-year-old Iraqi immigrant accused of "shoving" his hand into the rectum of a semiconscious woman, causing severe internal bleeding.
Charged with multiple counts of sexual assault, Ramadon - also known as Jay Hendrix - could face up to the rest of his life in prison if convicted.
His trial, which is expected to last two weeks, comes after an 11-month delay during which the case was held up as the Colorado Supreme Court considered an evidentiary dispute between prosecutors and defense attorneys.
Charged in the July 2012 assault at a west Colorado Springs apartment complex were Ramadon and four other Iraqi immigrants, all of whom were brought to the United States with the help of military members after assisting troops in Iraq.
One co-defendant, Sarmad Fadhi "Levi" Mohammed, 26, is serving 16 years to life in prison after a jury convicted him last year of placing his penis in the woman's mouth. Three others were accused of lying to police about what they knew of the rape and ended up with misdemeanor convictions.
During opening statements Wednesday, prosecutor Michael Allen identified Ramadon as the man who brutalized the woman - inflicting an injury so severe that doctors say she could have died without medical intervention.
He said the woman's ordeal ended only when "the unmistakable odor of feces filled the room," prompting Mohammed to demand that she and Ramadon leave their apartment.
But according to Ramadon's public defenders, their client wasn't present when the woman was injured.
While all four co-defendants lived together and looked upon each other as brothers, Ramadon was an "acquaintance" and an "outsider," said attorney Kim Chalmers, arguing that her client became a suspect only after police allowed his four co-defendants to ride together in a car, without an officer present, on their way to be interviewed about what happened.
"Believe it or not, they came up with a story," Chalmers said.
Prosecutors said witnesses will help tie Ramadon to the crime, including a neighbor who said Ramadon knocked on his door in the early morning hours after the assault with the bleeding woman at his side.
One of Ramadon's co-defendants is expected to testify that he witnessed the attack and saw fecal matter on Ramadon's hand as he withdrew it from her body, Allen said. He said the woman wasn't drunk but has no recall of her ordeal.
Prosecutors didn't mention a claim heard at previous court proceedings that the woman was drugged.
The woman didn't know the men but went to their apartment after witnessing a fight between Ramadon and soldiers in the complex parking lot, prosecutors said.
Ramadon is being tried under the name Hendrix, which he adopted after being brought to the United States with the help of 1st Sgt. Daniel Hendrex, whom Ramadon helped hunt down insurgents, including members of his own family.
The soldier's experiences at war, along with his efforts to secure safe harbor for Ramadon in the U.S., are documented in the book "A Soldier's Promise."