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This story was updated on March 8 at 3:45 p.m.



When McLean attorney Kaveh Noorishad, 31, was retained to represent accused rapist Syed Moosvi, he saw it as an open-and-shut case.

“I saw the case and said to myself ‘this guy is going to jail,’” he said.

The alleged female victim had very visible bruising, and there was a videotaped confession of Moosvi admitting to the rape. But the more Noorishad looked into the case, the more things seemed not to add up to him, and Noorishad began to see that his client was a victim himself, of a language barrier within the judicial system.

“My original thought was to enter some sort of plea bargain in which Moosvi would say he was guilty and receive a lesser sentence,” Noorishad said. “But he was adamant about his innocence. He told me that one day in jail was the same as 10 years to him, and that he refused to plead guilty. I am the only one in my firm, so I shut down my practice for two weeks to take on this case. Moosvi’s mosque put up the money for his defense.”

According to court documents, police incident reports and court testimony, Moosvi, 35, worked as an assistant manager at a Denny’s on Richmond Highway in the Alexandria portion of Fairfax County.

In June of 2012, Moosvi — who has been in the U.S. for five years and was married in 2002 through an arranged marriage in India — took a newly hired female employee, Lisa Williams, 37, shopping.

After purchasing her some clothes and a bottle of Absolut vodka, both got takeout food from a local Applebee’s and went to a nearby motel on Richmond Highway, where they had sex.

Williams testified that after the sex, she went out on the balcony of the motel room and smoked a cigarette before Moosvi drove her home.

Williams then went to a local hospital, where she told medical personnel there that she had been raped.

The next day, Fairfax County Police had Williams call Moosvi on the telephone two times, and the conversations were recorded. In a transcript of those recordings, Williams asks Moosvi about the sex and particularly about some biting, which she said left marks on her neck and chest. “You were pulling my clothes off and I was holding on to my outfit. You kept biting me,” she said.

“Yeah, Lisa, you told me that why don’t you remove your whole clothes. You told me,” Moosvi replied. “I never told you to remove your clothes,” Williams replied.

“In those conversations Moosvi apologized several times,” said Noorishad, part of a three-person defense team that included attorneys Katherine Martell and Ben Schaefer of the First Point Law Group in Fairfax. “But what I began to see was that there was a distinct language barrier. He was apologizing for the marks he made on her and not for his actions. He admitted to the sex, but he did not have any defensive wounds whatsoever,” Noorishad said.

Based on Williams’ accusation and the phone records, Moosvi was subsequently arrested and charged with forcible rape and aggravated sexual battery, two charges that can potentially result in five to 20 years imprisonment.

In a 75-minute videotaped interrogation by Fairfax County Detective Anthony Black, which was shown to jurors at Moosvi’s trial last week, his lack of knowledge of what was happening to him becomes apparent, Noorishad said.

“First of all, his English language skills are terrible and he does not understand what he is admitting to. Secondly, he waived his right to an attorney,” Noorishad said. “He really has a poor grasp of the English language and no concept whatsoever of the American judicial system. I think that became very apparent to the jury.”

During the taped confession, Moosvi admits to having “oral sex” with Williams but then refers to that act as “putting our lips together.” In another part of the confession, Black asks about Moosvi and Williams having a sexual relationship, to which Moosvi replies, “I told her that I was married and that I could not have a relationship with her, that I could not marry her.”

Moosvi then breaks down crying and lowers himself to kiss Detective Black’s shoes in a gesture of supplication. “I am so sorry for everything I did,” Moosvi says. “You are sorry for raping her?” Black asks. “I am sorry,” Moosvi continues to sob.

On Feb. 28, after a four day jury trial before Fairfax County Circuit Court Judge Michael F. Devine, a jury of three men and nine women found Moosvi not guilty of both charges.

“This really was the most significant case I have ever defended,” Noorishad said. “It really taught me to look at the evidence closely and see if it is accurate. Originally the bruising on Williams scared me because it looked so bad, but as I looked more closely at it, there were no teeth marks. And ironically, the videotaped confession that initially made me think I would lose this case, became one of my best pieces of evidence. It clearly showed to me both a language and a culture barrier, and I believe the jury saw that as well.”

Attorney Curtis Cannon of the law firm Goldberg, Finnegan and Mester, who represents Williams, did not return phone calls seeking comment.

gmacdonald@fairfaxtimes.com