Market Street Saloon owner Sam Mustafa and a former employee who accused him of raping her sat just two rows apart in a tight courtroom Wednesday morning.
The 41-year-old businessman wore a blue suit and beige tie, and sat beside a woman in a red jacket.
His 20-year-old accuser wore a pink shirt and gray hoodie with her long dark hair pulled into a ponytail. She sat with two supporters.
Charleston police Detective Leslie Ambrose laid out her case, and in the end Charleston County Associate Magistrate James Gosnell Jr. ruled that the first-degree criminal sexual conduct charge against Mustafa would proceed to trial.
Ambrose said about 30 people had boarded Mustafa's 44-foot boat, The Southern Lady, to party near Morris Island on June 26.
That's where Mustafa threw the woman on a bed in a downstairs cabin and pulled off her bikini bottom, Ambrose said. Mustafa forced the woman's knees to her chest and raped her, according to the detective.
The accuser, 4-feet-11 and 83 pounds at the time, screamed for the 6-foot-6, 230-pound man to stop, Ambrose said.
The woman sent her boyfriend a text message following the alleged attack, and the boyfriend alerted police.
Attorneys for both sides argued, often heatedly, about what happened that day and about the investigation that followed.
Mustafa owns Toast, two Market Street Saloon restaurant and nightclub locations, Charleston Downtown
Limo, a deli called Sam's Corner, Tabbuli Grill Mediterranean cafe and a Southern-style restaurant he named Eli's Table for his son.
He gave no statement to police the day of the alleged attack but later submitted to a polygraph test.
His attorney, Andy Savage, questioned the accuser's actions that day, noting that she initially denied the rape when police arrived at Charleston City Marina. Ambrose said the woman simply wanted privacy before making her claim.
"She said she needed to get away from them and the boat before she provided a statement to anybody," the detective said.
Savage questioned Ambrose repeatedly about who took the accuser's initial statement, while Assistant Solicitor Larry Todd called Savage argumentative. Gosnell told Savage to "move on" repeatedly throughout the hearing.
The accuser went to Medical University Hospital hours after the alleged attack for a rape examination. Photographs showed bruising and redness, but Savage suggested that the injuries appeared to be days old.
Savage also noted that the woman and her boyfriend have criminal records. Gosnell reminded Savage that credibility was not an issue at a preliminary hearing.
The judge asked the attorneys twice for a private discussion, but Savage and Todd insisted on keeping everything a matter of public record.
Savage pointed out that the one witness who made a statement, who told police she found the accuser crying in a closet after the alleged attack, spent time in a psychiatric hospital.
"Was she well enough to give a statement that day? Was she on medication? Did she have a large scar and stitches?" Savage asked.
Gosnell told him once again to move on, but Todd asked for more than that.
"Judge, this is your courtroom," the prosecutor said. "If this person is not going to follow your rules, I would ask that you consider holding him in contempt of court."
Gosnell ruled that Todd had showed probable cause for the case to move forward. A trial date has not yet been set.
Outside the courtroom Savage said he feels confident moving forward.
"We've had photographs from the Medical University reviewed by obstetricians," Savage said. "There's nothing in there that indicates anything but consensual sex."
The accuser and her supporters slipped from the courtroom and drove away before Mustafa stepped outside.
Reach Allyson Bird at 937-5594 or on Twitter at @allysonjbird.