Witness against former federal agent in sexual assault trial made documentary about her story | Milwaukee Journal Sentinel | Bruce Vielmetti | February 6, 2020February 25, 2020
Bruce Vielmetti, Milwaukee Journal SentinelPublished 5:53 p.m. CT Feb. 6, 2020 | Updated 6:29 p.m. CT Feb. 6, 2020
WAUKESHA – Before she testified that an ex-boyfriend had sexually assaulted her, C. Kimberly Toms had already told her story in a documentary film that recently became available for streaming on Amazon.
Toms, 49, said on a website for the film that she was concerned David Scharlat might never be charged because he was a federal agent for the Diplomatic Security Services, an arm of the U.S. State Department. She wanted to leave a record, she said, in case something happened to her.
But Scharlat, 55, was charged in 2018 with sexually assaulting Toms and two other women in Waukesha County, from 2013 to 2017, and his trial began this week. His attorney has said the charged incidents were consensual, and that the women became vindictive against Scharlat after learning he had been seeing all of them.
On Wednesday, Toms told the jury about meeting Scharlat at an Illinois restaurant in 2013, about his controlling behavior that became threatening, and how he forced her to perform oral sex at his home over Labor Day weekend in 2013.
Toms agreed to be named in the Journal Sentinel, which typically does not identify victims of sexual assault.
Like a previous witness, Toms said she feared Scharlat’s law enforcement connections would make it hard to get police to take her seriously. She said she tried to tell police in other states, but was told to get counseling.
Like another woman who testified against Scharlat, Toms said he always kept his gun within reach during sex. When she’d talk of moving, he would say there was nowhere she could hide, she said.
She described an incident in early 2014 in which she said Scharlat called from his car to say he was on his way to her Random Lake home to show her how angry he was, that she should answer the door without speaking and get on the bed.
“I felt he might kill me, or I’d kill him,” she said, but she submitted to sex.
“So you consented?” Scharlat’s attorney, Paul Bucher, asked during cross-examination.
“Not really when you lie there and take it,” she said, though she said the Labor Day incident months earlier involved no consent at all.
Bucher asked Toms about dozens of the hundreds of emails and messages she and Scharlat exchanged, and of times she met with him and had consensual sex after the date of the charged crime.
Toms said she was afraid of Scharlat, who often spoke of his power and nationwide jurisdiction. She said at times she was friendly toward him to keep him close, to know what he was up to.
Eventually, Toms said, she began cooperating with the Diplomatic Security Services’ internal investigation of Scharlat, which she said was prompted by her complaint about his stalking behavior in 2014, after she had moved away from Wisconsin. She said that over the first three months of 2015, she sent texts she hoped would lead to Scharlat confessing to the sexual assault.
They did not, she said, but despite her several direct accusations, he never denied it either.
Bucher later sought a mistrial over that comment. Waukesha County Circuit Judge Maria Lazar denied it but did remind the jury the next morning that every defendant is presumed innocent and entitled to remain silent.
The State Department said it fired Scharlat, a former Brookfield police officer, in 2015.
The cross-examination included detailed references to explicit messages from Toms to Scharlat, some meant to be sexy, others in anger. She said she didn’t remember them all, but generally agreed to “owning” much of the language.
Acting vulnerable and submissive, calling him Daddy and the like, Toms said, worked on Scharlat, “so I could keep him visible, and know if he was coming after me.”
Bucher asked her about her documentary. She said she is not making money from it, but could in the future. She denied his implication that her testimony was financially motivated.
“Escaping Fed” is named for Toms’ nickname for Scharlat, who is never named in the documentary. Based on a trailer and deleted scenes available online, the film features Toms telling her story to a camera, or sometimes over a Skype-style exchange on a computer, intercut with some reenactments of scenes with an actor playing Fed.
Notes about the production say she started the project in 2017, still doubtful that Scharlat would ever be charged, and concerned that if anything happened to her, the story would have been recorded.