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Barbershop owner battles rape conviction with appeal, federal lawsuit


Discretion advised: This story depicts rape, assault and prison violence. If you believe you may have been sexually assaulted, called the confidential National Sexual Assault Hotline: 800-656-4673.

Anthony Eidem says he is innocent of the rape charges that imprisoned him for the next eight years. Eidem was sentenced last year after a jury trial convicted him of two counts of rape and a third count of “disruption of computer services.” 

He was convicted in Butte County, California, where his Gearhead Barbershop was located. He also ran a barbershop by the same name in Reno. The Reno store has closed since his conviction, and the Gearhead in Chico is now called Backwood Barbershop.

Eidem said he believes the Butte County district attorney targeted him after he defied COVID-19 directives and reopened his shop

The Nevada Attorney General also went after Eidem in late 2020 on behalf of the state barbers board. That case was for opening Gearhead in the fall of 2019 without a license. A settlement with the state was reached in early 2021, and the case was dismissed. 

The rape in Chico also occurred in the fall of 2019.

“I know I said ‘no.’”

The victim was a former Gearhead employee who went to work for a competitor business. What’s not in dispute is a sexual encounter between the victim and Eidem. Both were intoxicated. Upon getting a text from the victim, who asked Eidem out for drinks, the two proceeded to drink at multiple locations in October 2019.

They ended up at Eidem’s house and had sex. Eidem claimed they had consensual sex initiated by the victim, named “Maria” in court documents. Maria said he raped and strangled her. 

A roommate at the house at the time confirmed some of what occurred but is not documented to have witnessed the assault. He also told investigators that Maria said Eidem raped her, a statement she made just after the incident.

“Maria woke up, and appellant was on top of her assaulting her,” the DA alleged. “Appellant had removed her shirt … and was strangling her with both of his hands. She lost consciousness.”

The roommate drove Maria to the police department, and a sexual assault investigation began. 

“I know I said ‘no,’” she told the police. She could not remember details.

In court documents, Eidem said he believed the encounter was entirely consensual. Eidem’s girlfriend, a witness in the trial, defends him. 

“He didn’t shut down his business,” Gabby Koloszar told This Is Reno last year. “We think that’s what this stems from. He loved the media attention. It was seven months before they got a warrant and arrested him.”

“any error was harmless.”

Eidem was arrested in April 2020, well after the incident occurred. News media reported that the matter was being investigated by Chico Police during that time, a process slowed in part by the pandemic. 

“We did not expect him not to be acquitted,” Koloszar added. “The sad part is it boils down to drama between two barbershops. We really thought he was going to get a fair shake.”

Appeal claims ‘prosecutorial misconduct’

The jury trial conviction is being appealed to the California Court of Appeals. In court filings, his attorney said significant procedural and legal errors were made during the trial. The California Attorney General’s office is defending the appeal. Attorneys denied any impropriety in the trial and repeatedly said in a court filing, “Any error was harmless.”

Eidem is convinced he was targeted. 

“The Chico police department did not do a proper investigation,” he said. “The Butte County DA’s office covered up this fact. The local media was then used to further the narrative that I was a monster. To this day, I’m still confused on why this has happened to me. The only conclusion I can come to is I embarrassed Butte County Officials when I reopened my barbershop.”

The DA’s office said otherwise. Prosecutor Leah Sears called Eidem a “delusional narcissist who refuses to take responsibility for the brutal rape he committed.”

Last year, after he was sentenced to eight years in prison, Eidem’s attorney Roberto Marquez said the case was ripe for an appeal. He said the DA engaged in prosecutorial misconduct.

“I … believe in my client,” he told This Is Reno. “I believe in his truth, but obviously, a jury saw it a different way. It’s disappointing. It’s devastating.”

Eidem is now represented in his appeal by criminal defense attorney Leslie Prince. In court documents, Prince also said the DA’s office committed prosecutorial misconduct. She alleges one of the expert witnesses presented “unqualified and unfounded expert testimony suggesting that Maria had been strangled and had rape trauma syndrome. Further, evidence which would have established that appellant had an actual and reasonable belief that Maria had consented to sex was wrongfully excluded.”

She also alleged the prosecutor erroneously told jurors they “did not have to prove the case to a near certainty.” The allegations, she wrote, were prejudicial and therefore worthy of the case being reversed.

The AG’s office, defending the case on behalf of the Butte County DA, disagreed.

“Because there is no evidence the prosecutor intentionally or knowingly committed misconduct, appellant’s claims should be characterized as one of prosecutorial ‘error’ rather than ‘misconduct,’” the attorneys wrote. “Regardless, any error was harmless.”

Federal lawsuit filed

Eidem also has a federal lawsuit against California Department of Corrections officials. He filed the case himself and is alleging cruel and unusual punishment. He said corrections officers discussed his rape conviction with others incarcerated in the same unit, and then somebody slashed his throat.

“The crime I was convicted of committing is especially looked down upon in prison culture, so I was immediately put in danger,” he wrote in his federal complaint. After his throat was slashed, Eidem alleged, he was placed on suicide watch. Prison officials said they suspected the wound was “self-inflicted,” though Eidem “denied having suicidal ideation, intent or plan.”

He alleges other harassment, attacks and correctional officers ignoring his pleas. The state of California has not yet responded to his complaint.

Bob Conrad
Bob Conradhttp://thisisreno.com
Bob Conrad is publisher, editor and co-founder of This Is Reno. He has served in communications positions for various state agencies and earned a doctorate in educational leadership from the University of Nevada, Reno in 2011. He is also a part time instructor at UNR.