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Trial begins for IRS agent accused of raping college intern

Opening statements were made Thursday in the Suffolk Superior Court jury trial of IRS agent James Clarke. He is accused of raping a summer intern in his car in July 2017.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

Weeks after a college intern in the Internal Revenue Service’s Boston office turned 21, an agent twice her age invited her for drinks at a nearby pub, where she got drunk and he showed off his gun to a woman hosting trivia night, a prosecutor told a Suffolk County jury Thursday.

The agent, James Clarke, offered the woman a ride to South Station after several hours of drinking at the Kinsale on July 26, 2017, then handcuffed her once they were inside his government-issued car with tinted windows, Suffolk Assistant District Attorney Ian Polumbaum said in his opening statement at Clarke’s trial. Clarke then shoved his gun in her mouth and raped her, he said.


The woman “didn’t follow any kind of playbook or preconceptions or rules about how somebody being raped is supposed to behave,” Polumbaum said. “You won’t hear about screaming or fighting. Those weren’t even options in her mind.”

Clarke, 45, is charged with aggravated rape, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, and indecent assault and battery.

Polumbaum said the woman was terrified when Clarke shoved his 40-caliber Glock so far into her mouth that it caused injuries to the back of her throat and made it difficult to breathe. She went into “survival mode,” going along when Clarke made vulgar comments and told her she liked pain, Polumbaum said.

“Anything to get out of that situation,” he said.

Her DNA profile was found on the gun, according to court records.

He said Clarke first assaulted the woman in his car at the Government Center Garage and then again before he dropped her off at South Station to catch a bus home.

She called 911 from the train station and said she had been raped at gunpoint.

Clarke’s lawyer, Robert Sheketoff, dismissed Polumbaum’s opening statement as “a very interesting speech from someone who wasn’t there” and told jurors that the encounter between Clarke and the woman was consensual.


“The defense is not that they didn’t have sexual relations of some sort in that car,” Sheketoff told jurors. “The defense is that it was consensual.”

The day after the incident, police interviewed Clarke and later asked the woman if she would be surprised if Clarke had claimed their encounter was consensual, Sheketoff said.

In a recording of the interview that will be played for jurors, Sheketoff said the woman told police that would not surprise her “because in that moment to me it felt he wasn’t aware what was going on because he didn’t realize that I was crying.”

The woman also told police Clarke was unaware that she began secretly recording some of the encounter on her phone, Sheketoff told jurors. He “didn’t realize that I was in pain, that tears were rolling down my face,” she said.

Sheketoff told jurors they will hear from experts who will testify that a portion of the six-minute recording was deleted and that the woman offered different accounts of how that happened. When Clarke dropped the woman off at South Station, he told her, “Get out of the car safely here,” Sheketoff said. Those were not the words of a “mad rapist,” he said.

Polumbaum said the woman was frightened when she recorded the incident, and even though it was humiliating, she didn’t try to hide it and turned it over to police the day after the incident.


Clarke, who no longer works for the IRS, was assigned to the agency’s criminal investigations office in Boston at the time of the incident. He remained on the job until sometime after he was indicted in March 2018.

Polumbaum said the woman was working in the office the summer before her senior year in college and aspired to a career in law enforcement. She was assigned to do work for Clarke and two other agents. When Clarke learned she was going to a casino to celebrate her 21st birthday in July 2017, he gave her $20 to gamble, Polumbaum said.

On the day of the incident, Clarke invited the woman for drinks as a case they had been working on was winding down.

Polumbaum told jurors that the woman, who weighs about 120 pounds, had six mixed drinks and began texting friends that she was intoxicated. He said Clarke had five beers.

The prosecutor told jurors that Clarke showed his gun to the intern inside the bar and also showed it to a woman hosting a trivia contest, who told him, “You can’t do that in a bar.”

Clarke showed her his badge, said he could do what he wanted, and “hip-checked” the trivia host with the hip that his gun was on, Polumbaum said

He told jurors that the evidence will support the woman’s claim that she was raped, “that it wasn’t some mutual activity, it wasn’t some lapse in judgment with the defendant getting carried away and cheating on his wife and three kids.”


“This wasn’t sex, it was violence,” he said.

Shelley Murphy can be reached at shmurphy@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @shelleymurph.