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Vasile Graure returned to court today as the government continued its case against him. Graure is charged with eight counts of assault with intent to kill, one count of aggravated assault, one count of mayhem, two of burglary, one of arson, and one of property destruction exceeding $200, in connection with a fire in Glover Park strip club Good Guys last year. Graure—-who appeared with a freshly shaved head, white shirt, and black polka-dot tie—-had suffered an infection of the toe last Thursday but appeared healthy in the court room this morning. [Full disclosure: The Sexist missed trial on Friday].
At 10:30 this morning, the prosecution called Arefaine Berhane, an employee of the Glover Park Chevron station, to the stand. Berhane, who is Eritrean, speaks English at the Chevron station but appeared with a translator in court.
Berhane took over cashier duties at the Wisconsin Ave. Chevron at around 8 p.m. on the night of the fire. His first customer entered the small store attached to the station and told Berhane his car was out of gas. The customer asked to buy a red gas can with a yellow and black cap. Berhane told him the price of the gas can with tax, took the customer’s money, and then gave him his change. The customer left, tried to fill the can with some gas outside, then returned to Berhane and asked to pay for the gasoline with cash. He also asked to buy a lighter.
Berhane told the customer the price of the smallest lighter, plus tax. “Do you have tax on everything?” the customer asked him. “I then joked with him, and said that if you keep asking, I’ll tax you on what you’re saying as well.”
The customer asked Berhane if he had any children. He asked their age. He asked where they were. Berhane told them that they were back in Eritrea. The customer told him it would be great if they could join him here. Then, Berhane sold the man a red lighter to match the color of the gas can.
The man left without getting his change. Berhane expected he would come back once he’d filled his car’s tank with gas. The customer never returned. Instead, Berhane says, he heard a rush of sirens. Police descended on the Chevron station. It wasn’t long before Berhane realized that their questioning had something to do with the gas can he sold.