Former Bob's Diner owner pleads not guilty to new rape count

·3 min read

Jun. 26—A former Manhattan restaurant owner pleaded not guilty to another rape charge leveled against him after a former employee testified Friday that he raped her at the job.

Robert Iacobellis, 62, entered the plea at the end of a preliminary hearing in Riley County District Court Friday morning. Iacobellis, the former owner of Bob's Diner, now faces 27 sexual abuse-related offenses.

Eighteen of those 27 counts are for aggravated indecent liberties with a child, and four counts are for aggravated criminal sodomy. With the addition of the new charge, Iacobellis now faces five counts of rape. The bulk of the alleged incidents occurred between 2010 and 2019 with three girls under the age of 15.

The woman who testified at Friday's hearing sat with her therapy dog and told Riley County Attorney Barry Wilkerson that she was raped by Iacobellis sometime between Aug. 1 and Sept. 30 of 2011. The woman, who was 18 or 19 years old at the time of the alleged incident, said she worked at the now-closed Bob's Diner, and that one night her parents came to have dinner with her. She testified that her parents brought her then one-month-old daughter with them and left the child with her at the restaurant after dinner.

The woman told Wilkerson that as she was bussing the table where she and her parents ate, Iacobellis approached her and grabbed her wrists and forced her into the kitchen.

She said at one point, she felt something cold against her back, and she could recall "the weight of him" pinning her. She told Wilkerson that Iacobellis raped her with an unknown object, and she experienced pain and bleeding for the next two days. She said she could see her child sitting in a car seat nearby while she was being raped.

During cross-examination from Iacobellis' attorney Brenda Jordan, the woman testified that she had trouble recalling more exact details of the incident, such as dates and times. She said she did not remember most of that year, and through therapy, she was able to recall more vividly what happened to her. She said the trauma "changed her whole life path," and when RCPD Detective Brian Johnson contacted her about her time at Bob's Diner, she initially told him she "didn't want to talk about it."

The defense called Johnson to testify during the hearing; he spoke via Zoom. Johnson said he attempted to contact the woman over the past couple of years with no success. He said just in the past few months, he started a conversation with her about his investigation into the allegations against Iacobellis. Through the course of several meetings, he said the woman told him Iacobellis raped her, and that the presence of her child during the alleged incident was an "especially poignant detail."

Iacobellis previously faced 130 counts of sexual abuse offenses, but prosecutors whittled them down last June to incidents the victims could specifically recall. During another preliminary hearing last summer, one victim testified that she was seven years old when incidents of sexual assault began.

Iacobellis remains confined in jail on a $400,000 bond.

Judge Kendra Lewison set a pre-trial scheduling hearing at 9:30 a.m. Aug. 4. At the request of Iacobellis and his attorneys, the hearing will be held in-person.

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