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Judge says Cardinal Barbershop owner should face trial for sexual assault

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Editor's Note: This story contains intimate details about sexual assault, which could be triggering to survivors of sexual abuse.

Sporting a dark suit, glasses, and trimmed slicked-back hair on Aug. 29 in San Luis Obispo Superior Court, Nate Abate looked very different from his January arrest picture where he's frozen in time with long hair and a full beard. SLO County Sheriff's Office detectives arrested the 34-year-old owner of Cardinal Barbershop for allegedly raping multiple women across the county.

Abate and Julian Contreras—the former owner of the now-defunct Kin Coffee—came under fire last April when a whistleblower publicly accused the pair on Instagram of assaulting her and her friend roughly a decade ago. Since her social media post, allegations streamed in from approximately 40 women who said they were also abused.

Now, Abate's facing trial.

HELD ACCOUNTABLE Cardinal Barbershop owner Nate Abate faces five criminal charges ranging from forcible rape to oral copulation with a minor. - PHOTO BY JAYSON MELLOM
  • Photo By Jayson Mellom
  • HELD ACCOUNTABLE Cardinal Barbershop owner Nate Abate faces five criminal charges ranging from forcible rape to oral copulation with a minor.

During the Aug. 29 preliminary hearing, a SLO police officer and a sheriff's detective working in the Special Victims Unit narrated the assaults supposedly committed by Abate and Contreras, as reported by five survivors. Three of those women were minors at the time of the alleged crimes.

Abate's attorney, Scott Taylor, confirmed to presiding Judge Mike Frye that Contreras fled to Mexico. A prior Sheriff's Office press release mentioned that detectives had an arrest warrant for Contreras and were actively trying to find him. Abate is currently out on a $500,000 bail bond and pled not guilty.

Prosecuting attorney Kimberly Dittrich from the District Attorney's Office added two more charges against Abate, bringing the total to five. He now contends with charges of rape by force on the first count, rape by force, oral copulation with a minor, rape of an intoxicated person on the second count, and rape of an intoxicated person on the third count, according to court documents.

Judge Frye held Abate answerable on all counts and added there's substantial evidence to go to trial. A new arraignment will take place on Sept. 7. It will include Taylor's motion to dismiss the case based on the argument that the cases exceeded the statute of limitations.

The DA's Office criminal complaint also stated that evidence of prior sexual acts will be submitted in the case. Dittrich told the court that these records pertained to a past misdemeanor involving Abate and a then-minor.

The preliminary hearing discussed specific crimes alleged to have happened between 2008 and 2012. SLOPD Detective Brent Inglehart said in late March 2022, he spoke with an unidentified woman named Jane Doe 7, who filed a complaint that alleged assault from Abate and Contreras. In April 2022, he made contact with Jane Doe 1 after she became the social media whistleblower of the Abate-Contreras crimes.

Jane Doe 1 told Inglehart she met Abate around 2011 when she was 20. They entered a romantic relationship soon after, and their first sexual encounter was consensual, and Jane Doe 1 asked Abate to wear protection.

"At one point during sexual intercourse, he took off the condom, which is called stealthing," Inglehart said. "She contracted chlamydia from that interaction and believes it was from Abate."

California law classifies stealthing as a civil offense, and survivors are allowed to sue perpetrators directly in civil court. Inglehart added that Jane Doe 1 went to the doctor for treatment.

By 2012, when she turned 21, Jane Doe 1 was in an on-and-off relationship with him, Inglehart said. She was invited to Contreras' house and a friend dropped off Jane Doe 1 and another friend there. They smoked marijuana, drank alcohol, and felt inebriated. The two women then went upstairs with Abate and Contreras.

"[Jane Doe 1] recalled being seated on the bed and seeing Mr. Contreras having sexual intercourse with her friend," Inglehart said. "Her friend was just laying there and not responding to anything."

He told the courtroom that Jane Doe 1 said Abate pushed her down on the bed and had sex with her. Afterwards, Jane Doe 1 and her friend left.

Jane Doe 1 contacted New Times and asked to clarify Ingelhart's statements. She said he inadvertently misspoke about the timeline. She said she was 21 when she met Abate, and they saw each other on-an-off for 3 months when they began dating. Jane Doe 1 added that she didn't contract any chlamydia after the stealthing incident. She said she contracted the disease from Abate after the alleged assault, and then she went to the doctor. Jane Doe 1 told New Times that she stopped talking to Abate after the alleged assault and never saw him again.

At the preliminary hearing, Abate defense attorney Taylor questioned the absence of a medical report that could prove Jane Doe 1 tested for chlamydia around 2011.

"She was upset with it [stealthing], but didn't break up with him?" Taylor asked Inglehart.

Taylor stressed a need for corroboration because there weren't other witnesses in the room when the alleged assaults took place. Taylor asked Inglehart if he spoke with Jane Doe 1's friend who was reportedly abused by Contreras. Her friend declined to be identified and didn't want to be involved in the investigation, Inglehart said. Taylor called it a "case of regret," arguing that Jane Doe 1 waited for roughly 10 years before formally complaining.

"We just have to take her word for it," Taylor said.

Inglehart also spoke with Jane Doe 4 last year about her interactions with Abate and Contreras in 2013. At the time, she was new to the area, going to college, and started a job. Jane Doe 4 didn't know a lot of people but shared mutual friends with Abate and Contreras, who sent her friend requests on Facebook and messaged her privately asking to meet. The pair picked her up and took her to a house near downtown SLO. Jane Doe 4 told Inglehart she believed it was Contreras' house.

They offered her marijuana, which she refused. She said she drank alcohol with them.

"A conversation about niceties turned to them [Contreras and Abate] wanting to have a threesome," Inglehart said. "[Jane Doe 4] said she felt nervous and wasn't looking for that."

"They [Contreras and Abate] both made statements like, 'How do you know you won't like it if you don't try it?'" Inglehart said. "Abate exposed his erect penis in front of her and she engaged in oral sex. Contreras removed her pants and began having penile-vaginal sex with her while she was with Abate."

Detective James Wyett of the Sheriff's Special Victims Unit detailed accounts of alleged rape of two 14-year-old girls.

In 2009, then 14-year-olds Jane Does 2 and 3 snuck out and had a friend drive them to a Santa Margarita residence believed to be Contreras' house. Abate and Contreras were in their early 20s and the girls were excited that older men paid attention to them, according to Wyett.

Jane Doe 2 noticed people were drinking and drank tequila and vodka too.

Soon Abate took her to a room and turned on pornography on the TV or laptop. When Jane Doe 2 blacked out and came to, she found him on top of her.

When she tried to squirm away, Abate pinned her arms by her side. Later, she found her friend, got picked up by her mother, and left.

Jane Doe 3 was also allegedly raped by Contreras and Abate after they picked her up near Paso Robles High School where she was a student.

Jane Doe 6 also told Wyett the two men assaulted her. Her account was similar to Jane Doe 2's, the only difference being the pornography clip showed to her was the recording of Jane Doe 3's alleged assault.

Defense attorney Taylor argued that Jane Does 2, 3, and 6 were friends at the time and could have influenced each other's' stories. Wyett countered that it's common for sexual abuse survivors to seek mental health support when they've undergone trauma. Δ

Clarification: This story includes a clarification from one of the survivors who reached out after the original story was published on Aug. 31.

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