East Bay horse trainer ordered to pay $9 million for allegedly raping ex-cop

OAKLAND — An Alameda County Superior Court judge has ordered an ex-horse trainer at Golden Gates Fields to pay $9 million in damages to a woman who accused him of drugging her drink and sexually assaulting her in concert with another man.

Ari Herbertson was ordered by Judge Jeffrey Brand, who found it was “more probable than not” that Herbertson raped the woman after allegedly putting a date rape drug into her drink at Golden Gate Fields. The woman testified that after taking a small sip from a mimosa at the bar of the popular horse track, she felt “instantly intoxicated” and that Herbertson and another man took her to a nearby soccer field and sexually assaulted her.

Herbertson pleaded no contest to a charge of assault with a deadly weapon in connection to the Jan. 12, 2019 incident. He was sentenced to one year in jail and two years probation, but charges of sexual battery, sexual penetration and assault with intent to commit a sex crime were dropped in the plea deal, court records show.

The woman, a former East Bay law enforcement officer, subsequently sued Herbertson and told her story in court, saying that she relied on her police training to preserve clothes and other evidence on the way to seeking medical treatment after the sexual assault.

In his order, Brand detailed ways that the woman suffered long-term consequences from the traumatic incident.

“Plaintiff also testified that she is concerned that any beverage she may purchase in public has been drugged. Plaintiff related that she intentionally gained approximately 50 pounds to make herself less attractive so that she would not be raped again,” Brand wrote. “She also stated that she experiences memory loss that she characterized as ‘holes’ in her brain.”

The verdict, reached on Jan. 17, was announced in a news release by the law firm representing the woman. Her attorney, Randall Strauss, issued a statement praising her for being “unafraid to pursue her attacker in court.”

“Her bravery helps send a message that our society will not tolerate sexual battery and will work to seek justice for victims of sexual abuse,” Strauss’ statement reads.

Golden Gate Fields, the only horse track in Northern California, is set to close in June after its final racing season.

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