By Kent Gray

Triplicate staff writer

District Attorney Bob Drossel paced in front of the jury yesterday and occasionally thumped the lecturn for emphasis as he asked that justice be done.

People in jail have got to be protected, Drossel said. He asked that James Weaver, 33, a former Del Norte County jailer, be convicted of having sex with one inmate and sexually assaulting another.

But Defense Attorney Edward Fishman, speaking softly and occasionally stepping into the witness box to remind jurors of testimony, said the whole case boils down to who can be believed.

Is she credible? Fishman asked, referring to Natalie Curington, who said she performed oral sex on Weaver.

The girl has problems, Fishman said. Shes been in and out of rehabilitation centers.

Yesterday afternoon the case was handed to the jury. They quit deliberations last night after about three hours and will resume today.

Defendant Weaver never testified during his trial, leaving his defense in the hands of Petaluma attorney Fishman. Fishman aggressively attacked the credibility of the alleged victims in the case.

Curington testified she performed oral sex on Weaver as one of several sexual incidents she had with him. Kindra Richcreek testified Weaver came up from behind her and grabbed her by the breasts after he had made several remarks about her body.

During closing statements, Drossel returned to the key piece of evidence in the case, a tape recording of a conversation between Weaver and Curington.

You heard the tape, ladies and gentlemen. You can clearly hear Natalie, and in some places you can clearly hear the defendant ... this is highly damaging evidence against Mr. Weaver, Drossel said.

On the tape, Curington can be heard referring to sexual encounters she had with Weaver. Weaver, who was unaware he was being recorded, never clearly admits to any sexual contact with Curington, but his responses were still of importance to the prosecution.

This is a lot more than a sanitized and sterile conversation between an inmate and an officer ... Drossel told the jury. Theres no question Natalie Curington gave the defendant plenty of opportunity to respond to her sex talk ... he failed to make any denials.

Most of Fishmans defense in the trial consisted of exposing the troubled reputations of the two inmates, the inconsistencies of their statements to investigators and comparing the dates when the incidents allegedly occurred to when Weaver was actually working at the jail; the two were not always in alignment.

He attacked Richcreeks testimony as all too convenient and speculated she might have heard of Curingtons accusations and decided to jump on the bandwagon.

He reminded jurors that credible witnesses came forward to describe Richcreek as a liar and as someone who could not be trusted.

Kindra might have set this whole thing up, Fishman speculated.