Victim Statement

Sir, thank you for the opportunity for us to all meet in person today. Also thank you for the opportunity to speak. Because there was enough evidence without my testimony, this is really the first time for me to speak publicly. I wanted to have a moment to say out loud in his presence, that XX abused me is the most manipulative and abusive person I’ve ever known. 

I used to be a student of Angelo’s and was his business partner for two years when he opened his school. I was here for the end of the trial and a number of the preceding hearings. I largely sat in the background. I suppose I was never required to be at the courthouse, but I showed up because I wanted to show Angelo that I was not going away, and the this whole thing was not going to disappear like he’s used to. 

Angelo is very good at convincing people to believe an alternate version of what they know happened. That happened to me many times and is part of why I stuck around so long. I think it’s perfectly demonstrated by the fact that the man who called the police and started this whole process, later testified that he changed his mind. I feel like I should thank him, but he was his key witness and is here to speak for him today. It still blows my mind, but when it comes to Angelo, nothing surprises me anymore. 

Angelo knows how to come across as an empathetic and caring person. That’s how he suckered me. I felt I owed him the world for listening and supporting me when I was sexually assaulted by one of our teammate’s when I first started jiu jitsu. I originally only told him and my friend XX, who is sitting here today as my one person I got to bring to the courtroom. That’s the level of trust I placed in him. 

As I spent more time around him, he slipped out pieces of his true self. I should have listened when he told me who he really is. He admitted that when he was younger he loved when he got a date with girls with troubled pasts, because with them, he knew he just had to listen and act supportive and he’d be “getting some.”  

Another time, him and some of our “upstanding” male teammates had a conversation in front of me about how when they thought a relationship was close to the end they would try to get the woman to do some messed up fantasy of theirs that they she’d probably never agree to. Best case, she’d go along with it. Worst case, she would tell him to f’ off and hate him forever. Though knowing him, I think it would have to be a strong f’ off because a simple no is usually not enough. 

Angelo is a habitual boundary pusher. You could set a boundary, and be guaranteed he’d be pushing it again within days, weeks, or months. My broke my boundaries so many times, I sort of just gave up and didn’t really have boundaries anymore. Saying no to Angelo often resulted in some sort of punishment. Being ignored with the silent treatment was the kind version. Other times, after classes when everyone was gone, if I said we shouldn’t do this or reminded him that he said this would stop, he would pin me to the wall by my throat or rip my head back by my hair and he would demand I say I wanted his dick. If I only mumbled or whispered it, he would get more aggressive demanding, “say it louder!” “Louder!” For the longest time I still believed it was my fault because I gave him whatever he wanted. When I confronted him at the end of our partnership, he said all I had to do was say no and he would have stopped. But I did sometimes say “no”, and this is what happened, so is that really true?

I cannot logically explain why I stuck around. I guess his kind moments can make it feel like the terrible ones were some sort of mistake. I was waiting to feel like I did when I first met him and felt I was always safe with him. The fact that so many people love him made it feel like I must be the problem. I guess it’s illogical and difficult to understand unless you’ve been in an abusive relationship before. I found myself trapped in a classic, textbook, abuse cycle. I was horrified when I read a book about psychopathic abuse and felt like I was reading a biography of my life. 

His worst instance was when he took me to a sex shop during a large party at our school because he wanted to watch me be raped by a stranger. I learned I wasn’t the only person to have this experience and he has taken or tried to take others here too. Apparently this is a fantasy of his and he finds men on craigslist to meet him. As is always the case with Angelo, he ensured I was close to black-out drunk. He literally ripped my tights and underwear off. Whether it was through his force or my resistance, I slammed into the wall and crumbled to the floor repeatedly before he’d slap me and restrain me again for the stranger to continue to try to rape me. The next day, I woke up confused unable to process what happened so I told myself it was a bad dream despite all the evidence contrary to that. Maybe, if I never thought about it again, I would never remember it? The next day, he smiled and laughed like nothing was wrong making it easier to believe the lies I told myself. It I feel it’s not hard for him to smile and laugh because he literally finds it fun and amusing. 

Leaving the school and removing myself from the business was an intense ordeal. It took three months. He wouldn’t speak to me that entire time because he angry I wouldn’t ignore the past and move on like nothing bad ever happened between us. I was no longer allowed to teach in my own business, unless he had student he was doing a private lesson with for cash. “Then” I was granted permission to teach. He repeatedly threatened me that I needed to “learn to keep my fucking mouth shut.” He reinforced this when he found out I asked someone for help handling him. He told that person nothing was wrong, and directed me to tell everyone that things were great. He created a cover story for me that I was leaving the business because I wanted to pursue more competition and he didn’t have the time or money to support me. He shared that story and thanked me for everything for all my friends to see on social media. 

Despite him screaming that he hated me, suddenly for him we were old friends reconnecting at tournaments, but only when I was with other people. I knew exactly what he was doing. He was sowing doubt in anyone I could turn to for support if I ever worked up the nerve to speak up. How could they believe me when all they saw was him being kind to me?  I felt trapped, like nothing I could do would end well. Turned out my suspicions were correct, and he had XX watching our interactions to prove to her that I was the bad guy and he was the good guy so she would feel she couldn’t trust me. 

I could go for hours about all his manipulative and abusive behaviors, but there’s one last piece I’ll leave you with, since this is new since I wrote the letter to you. I knew, that Angelo knew, the reason the investigation restarted was because I finally spoke up. XX told him she wasn’t going to press charges, but then somehow he knew she came to the school I was at and we saw each other. I know, he I knew, because he sent me an email the very next day after I hadn’t heard from him in months. He had random questions about our business agreement, but the reason he was emailing was apparent in the rest of the message.

The beginning read:

Hey Shannon! Hope you are doing okay these days.

The end:

Miss you girl. I truly hope you are doing okay.

Really??? Hmmm, I wonder why he was wondering if I was doing okay. Could it be because I was not? Could it be because I knew who he really was and now I was in contact with someone who also knew who he was? 

I couldn’t figure out how he knew we saw each other. There was no reason for him to know. There were many other “coincidences” that happened throughout this whole process. I was convinced I was being stalked, but I couldn’t prove it. After the trial, I met XX for the first time. She told me how Angelo knew who she was talking to, what they said, and where she had been. When she asked him how,  he flat out told her that he had installed a stalking app on her phone and could see everything. It explained so much! Here, all this time when I knew him I felt like we must be some kind of soulmate because it was like he could read my mind. He couldn’t read my mind, but he could probably read my phone! 

When XX told me last Friday how many people were coming to speak for him, I got really upset. I was upset about the reality of this situation. A small army will come to support him but very few will speak for the victims. Not because there aren’t more victims, not because he hasn’t caused terrible harm to us or to others, but because he’s scared away and intimidated anyone else from being able to speak up. 

XX assured me that this is sadly a common problem. I know as a professional of the court that you understand this as well. I originally thought this would be a small, private event, but when I heard so many people were coming, I wanted everyone to see that there is support and also invited a lot of people. I know you understand it, but I invited them for his jiu jitsu associates who don’t understand that they are on the wrong side of history. I want them to know that the Colorado jiu jitsu community that is here, sees them and hears them. And for XX, and want her to know that she’s made a difference. That ultimately this was worth it. 

I want to take a moment to thank everyone that signed on to support us today. We are so very grateful.

I’m not sure who all is speaking for Angelo, or what they’ll have to say, but I’d just like to remind everyone who was actually here to see the evidence. There were 2 people in support of Angelo for the closing arguments. One who is Angelo’s best friend, who is here today. His testimony was in question because parts were contrary to the officer’s body camera from that night. The other was XX, who will speak today about how seeing the evidence altered his 20+ year loyalty to Angelo. I know how much backlash he faced for doing that, and I thank him for not taking the easy way out and speaking then, and here today. 

With that said, I heard there are up to 11 people are speaking today to defend him. With the exception of one, none of them bothered to listen to any evidence. Some got on social media and slandered us, called us scorned women that destroyed an innocent man’s life, somehow had pictures from parties that have to be years ago to post as evidence and black mail that at one point we cared for Angelo (shouldn’t be surprising) , and now stand up here and talk what a great person he is and without having bothered to listen to any of the evidence. 

Frankly at this point, Angelo’s abuse is a team sport. There’s some people here that have heard multiple allegations. Other’s here are still running his school under a new name. They aren’t even trying to hide the fact that they still support a convicted sex offender and want XX and I suffer for speaking up. 

Many people here are his family. I know he is probably an integral part of their lives. I hate to see that there has to be a decision between his freedom and his ability to be with them and our safety and the safety of women in the future. I don’t envy your job. 

There’s nothing about this situation that brings me joy. I didn’t ask for this. I don’t want this.

It’s Angelo’s choices that got us here today. We wouldn’t have to be here if he just would stop raping his students. If he didn’t have this insatiable need to use vulnerable women looking for empowerment and safety to fulfill his sick fantasies. If he’d stop stalking and harassing women trying to suck them back into his madness. Would that have been so hard??? Is that so much to ask for??? 

Sometimes I want to see the good side in people too much. I don’t like to see other’s hurt. When I feel myself torn about this moment or trying to play down what happened, I come back to this – His laughter.

Many parts of the trial are etched into my memory, but the one piece that really stuck with me when I listened to the closing arguments was his laughter at XX. 

I vividly remember the first hearing I went to, nearly a year and a half ago. It was one of the most intense experiences of my life to be sitting in here for the first time. I sat hidden in that back corner. At the end I saw him walk out with one of his coaches. A coach who teaches free women’s self defense seminars, and who despite Angelo’s arrest and improperly reading the report, STILL decided to hold women’s seminars in partnership with Angelo. I don’t get it.

Here they were walking out of the courtroom, laughing. Two people, both supposedly “so passionate about teaching women self defense”, laughing. I started shaking with rage at the sight of them. 

A few weeks after the assault at the sex shop I asked Angelo what happened that night. He wouldn’t say much but said I was ridiculous and embarrassing. I’m sure that’s probably true given I was black-out drunk. But he added that one day we would look back on that night and laugh. 

I don’t think anyone is laughing. Suddenly it’s not so funny when it’s his life that’s turned upside down. For me, it was never funny. Being held to the wall by my throat and told to repeatedly say “I want your dick”, “louder”, “louder” was not funny. Being penetrated so hard that I bleed, was not funny. Being repeatedly slapped, slammed into the wall, and restrained to be raped by a stranger, was. not. funny. When is the day that we look back and laugh? Was it supposed to be today? MAYBE HE COULD EXPLAIN TO US HOW ANY OF THIS FUNNY!!!!

I’ve been anxiously waiting for this day, because I feel my life still hinges on this sentence. I’ve never felt safe while he was free and am not sure I ever will. Naturally, I want his sentence to be as long as possible because to me it signifies the amount of time I can get to live in some semblance of peace. 

Outside of my own selfish desires, I believe he deserves a large sentence. There were no accidents or misunderstandings. What he’s done was heinous and calculated.  I think he’s luckily he’s intimidated so many other women into not talking. 

What he did, alone, without context, was terrible. But when you add in that he was our instructor, we came to him, paid him, to learn self defense, he marketed to women specifically, was obsessed about growing his women’s team, knew we were vulnerable and broken and looking for safety, assured us that we had it with him and then turned and took advantage of that to assault us and laugh… It’s sick.

I came to him looking for empowerment and he took advantage of that. Finally, after he nearly broke me, after he took my flame for life and snuffed it to a mere ember that was barely glowing, I finally have that empowerment. Finally, my friends in jiu jitsu that are virtually here with me today helped me find what I should have found years ago with him, my empowerment, my voice, and my strength. There’s nothing he can say that will change how I will feel. I know from experience he is never sorry. He’s only sorry he’s been caught. I want nothing from him. I’m only here to do the final part I can to see what’s been year’s coming and that’s justice. 

Thank you.