Man ‘thought it was ok’: Farmer, 52, sexually assaulted backpacker, then his mum stopped him

A GRAPE farmer who sexually assaulted a backpacker working on his block claimed he “read the signs wrong”, a court has heard.

Bruno Callipari, 52, pleaded guilty to sexual assault when he faced Mildura Magistrates’ Court yesterday and was placed on a community corrections order.

Police prosecutor Alexandra West told the court the victim, a 29-year-old Dutch backpacker, was hired by Callipari to work on his fruit block in December last year.

After a day’s work, the victim, Callipari and another backpacker sat down and had drinks together, when Callipari started to become “more and more sexist towards them” staring at her breasts and making comments about them.

“[She] brushed this behaviour off believing it to be ‘just another sexist farmer’,” Sgt West said.

The next day the pair ran errands around the Mildura area together, during which time they had conversations about different cultures and the differences in regards to drugs, prostitution and nightclubs.

In the car, Callipari asked the victim if she would stay the night if he paid her, showing her $1000 cash.

They returned to the block to continue work when Callipari slapped the victim on the buttocks with a newspaper before making a comment about how good she looked.

Later in the afternoon when they had finished work and were drinking alcohol together, he grabbed the victim by the wrist and led her outside before touched the victim around her breasts.

The victim said she began to feel violated and went back inside, where he continued to reach across the table and touch her breasts.

As the victim went to walk away from Callipari he grabbed her breast from behind, the victim saying “no, no, no”.

Callipari’s mother walked in and he immediately stopped what he was doing,the court heard.

In an interview with police, Callipari made admissions about the offending.

“I tried to have a bit of a touch. She let me basically and then mum came through and that was it, I got embarrassed,” he said.

“If that’s sexual harassment, yeah I’m guilty basically.

“I thought it was OK because she’s having them out to have a bit of a look.”

Defence counsel Samuel Tovey told the court Callipari’s behaviour was not predatory, but he had a “somewhat antiquated view of male and female relations”.

He said Callipari at the time saw himself as “being with a chance” of a consensual affection with the victim.

Mr Tovey said Callipari apologised to the victim for his actions, saying he “had the signs all messed up”.

He said Callipari’s relationship with hostels in the region and his reputation was now in ruin.

Mr Tovey submitted a community corrections order was not needed, and instead a fine was an appropriate punishment.

Magistrate Stella Stuthridge disagreed, placing him on an 18 month order, but declined to place him on the sex offenders registry. 

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