The M&T Bank Stadium employee who accused Ravens security director Darren Sanders of groping her after a December 2014 home game testified against him in Baltimore City Circuit Court Monday, telling a jury Sanders inappropriately touched her and tried to force sexual contact as she helped him to his car.
The incident, for which Sanders was charged with a fourth-degree sex offense and second-degree assault, occurred around 7 p.m. on Dec. 14, after the Ravens 20-12 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. Sanders, a former Baltimore City Police detective, has been on administrative leave, per the NFL's personal conduct policy, since the incident. He pleaded not guilty in March.
During jury selection — which last until nearly 1 p.m. — Judge M. Brooke Murdock read a witness list that included Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti, president Dick Cass, executive vice presidents Bob Eller and Roy Sommerhof, plus several other team employees.
Opening arguments from prosecutor Gavin Patashnick and defense attorney Andrew Alperstein began around 2:15 p.m, and neither disputed how Sanders and his accuser, a 35-year-old woman who works with stadium contractor Chimes DC as a cleaning crew supervisor, crossed paths that night. The Baltimore Sun does not identify the alleged victims of sexual assault.
The woman supervises the crew that cleans the suites on the north end of the stadium, where Bisciotti keeps his suite and hosts team officials and guests after every home game. Sanders always attends those gatherings, his attorney said.
After other games, Alperstein said, Sanders traveled with Bisciotti and other security personnel down a freight elevator to a ground-level tunnel, where the owner's car would take the security personnel to their cars in other lots.
But on the night in question, Sanders left early and was trying to get to his car on the opposite side of the stadium on his own, Alperstein said. When the accuser overheard him say into his Bluetooth headset that he was going to Lot D, she told him he was going the wrong way, both the woman and Alperstein said.
The accuser walked with Sanders back to Bisciotti's suite, where the security attendant at the door said he couldn't leave his post. The attendant asked the woman to walk Sanders to the proper part of the stadium.
That walk, from the suite level on the north side of the stadium to the south side, traverses an outdoor catwalk. That's where the accuser said Sanders crossed a line.
"He went from a friendly guy trying to get to an elevator, to like, creepy," the woman said. "He said, 'It's dark out here. No one can see us.'"
At the far end of the catwalk, the woman said Sanders grabbed her buttocks for the first of three times, and she rebuffed him. After the second time, the woman said Sanders asked her, "Do you know what I do around here? I do what I want."
They eventually reached the elevator that leads to the Southwest Suite entrance, and the woman said that when she went to the window to point out where Sanders' car would be, he pressed up against her and tried to force her to touch his penis. The incident was seen through the window by a fellow Chimes employee, who was at ground level, Pataschnick said.
Alperstein, in his opening statement, disputed nearly all of that. He said Sanders, who stands on the Ravens sideline during games and is a visible member of the organization, was targeted, and the alleged assault didn't occur. Alperstein said the allegations came after the woman's advances were spurned.
"She's aggrieved," he said. "She's offended. The only thing he's guilty of is being nice to her. He didn't touch her. He didn't do a thing."
Alperstein's cross-examination of the accuser was cut short Monday afternoon due to time constraints — the trial resume at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday — but he began by asking the woman about her prior knowledge of Sanders and Bisciotti, and focused in on the geography of the stadium as it relates to the woman's story.
He said during his opening statement that Sanders "has been falsely accused of a crime."