One evening in 2009, a 24-year-old woman huddled inside a West Loop tanning booth and made a frantic call to her sister.
“I’m about to be raped. Send the police to Soleil,” the woman told her sister, Cook County prosecutors said in court Friday.
The woman, identified in court as J.B., was in Soleil Tanning Salon that evening with the owner, her former boss Marc Winner. When Winner realized J.B. was using her phone, prosecutors said Friday, he grabbed her, brought her back to his apartment across the street and sexually assaulted her twice.
In a bench trial that began Friday, Winner, 47, faces charges that he committed a sexual assault. This is the first trial of four separate pending sex assault cases against Winner. Prosecutors characterize him as a serial rapist, and Judge Carol Howard has ruled they can introduce as evidence accusations that Winner attacked four other women besides J.B.
“He’s the kind of guy who’s a master manipulator, who creates situations where he can dominate his victims,” Assistant State’s Attorney Mikki Miller said Friday in her opening statement. “Most importantly, Marc Winner is a rapist.”
But Winner’s attorney Steven Weinberg said he is an upstanding member of the community and chalked the allegations up to an intoxicated misunderstanding, saying the evening “turned romantic” but J.B. “became hysterical” after Winner made a derogatory remark to her when they became intimate.
Proceedings could stretch into most of next week, a spokeswoman for the Cook County state’s attorney said.
J.B. was in a West Loop restaurant with a friend one evening in July 2009 when she saw Winner, her former boss. He invited the women to his apartment, where J.B. accepted “a small amount” of cocaine from him, prosecutors said. When J.B.’s friend left, Winner “became increasingly belligerent and aggressive,” prosecutors said, and took her cellphone.
In an attempt to get to a phone and call 911, prosecutors said, J.B. asked to see his tanning business, the now-shuttered Soleil Tanning Salon. She tried calling police from the desk phone but accidentally put the phone on speaker, triggering Winner’s ire; when she managed to get her own phone back from him, she called 911 and her sister, asking for help, prosecutors said.
Winner noticed, grabbed her and took her back to his apartment, where he forcibly undressed her and raped her twice, prosecutors alleged.
When he went to the bathroom, J.B. ran out of his apartment barefoot to a nearby Dominick’s grocery store and called for help. Police found her “disheveled and hysterical,” Miller said Friday. DNA recovered from J.B. links to Winner, authorities say.
Winner was arrested in 2009 then released without being charged after police were not informed that a DNA match had linked him, Miller said. He was arrested again in 2013 but a Cook County judge determined there was not enough probable cause to sustain the charges, records show. In 2016, prosecutors secured a grand jury indictment against him.
Records show prosecutors had previously offered a plea agreement to Winner: If he pleaded to reduced charges in two of his cases, they would recommend consecutive sentences of 15 and 3 years, and drop the other two cases against him. But Winner rejected the offer in court last month, records show.
In pretrial court filings, prosecutors portray Winner as a serial rapist, preying on women he meets in bars or at his salon. Seven women besides J.B. have accused him of sexual assault, prosecutors have said. Two others say he physically attacked them in other ways. Most of the allegations are “eerily similar” to J.B.’s — the women even resemble each other, prosecutors state in their filings.
Sex assault charges have been filed against Winner in three incidents besides the alleged attack on J.B., dating from 2015, 2012 and 2010. In two of the cases he is accused of inviting salon customers back to his apartment and raping them. In the third, he met the alleged victim through a mutual friend and asked her to give him a ride to his apartment, where he assaulted her after a physical fight, prosecutors said.