Hypercom Confidential

Colleen Smith claims her boss at Hypercom Corporation raped her. The company says it wanted to make things right. So the human resources director started hitting on her.

She got married in her early 20s to John Muzzarelli, then a production manager for such musical acts as Elton John and Cheap Trick. In the early '90s, the couple moved to Arizona, where they planned to raise their two young sons.

By 1995, Smith says, her marriage was on the rocks. She felt the need to return to the workplace after eight years as a homemaker. That September, she went to work as a "temp" for a firm that sent her to Hypercom.

There, she worked for months as a receptionist for $6 an hour. One day in early 1996, she recalls, someone in human resources -- not John Murphy -- asked her if she'd be interested in becoming "personal assistant" to Jairo Gonzalez, the new president of the international division.

Colleen Ryan Smith.
Leah Fasten
Colleen Ryan Smith.

Gonzalez recently had moved to the Valley from Miami, where Hypercom also maintains offices. His rise inside the company had been meteoric, culminating in his election as vice chairman of the board of directors and the international presidency.

Though records indicate he was born in the United States, Gonzalez spent much time in Colombia. His multicultural background helped him pitch Hypercom products in Latin America.

Smith says her interview for the position was brief.

"He said, 'I've been known to be an asshole. Do you have a problem with an asshole?'" she recalled. "And I said, 'Depending.'"

Gonzalez hired her at $25,000 per year, which was a lot of money to her at the time. But she earned that money the hard way. Gonzalez routinely berated his subordinates, and Smith often was in his line of fire.

Smith says she experienced another unpleasant side of Gonzalez after a conference at the Embassy Suites. There, she says, Gonzalez was complimentary about the job she'd been doing. Then, he tried to kiss and caress her, though Smith says she rebuffed his advances.

Smith told another Hypercom employee, Maryanne Lawson, what had happened. She says Lawson advised her that Gonzalez was very important to Hypercom, and advised her to try to steer clear of him in social settings. (George Wallner confirmed on the witness stand last month that Lawson herself also accused Gonzalez of physically assaulting her, though the time, location and extent of the assault are unknown.)

Smith and her husband separated in August 1996. The following month, she says, Gonzalez raped her at a home Hypercom leased on East Greenway Road. She says she'd gone there to retrieve the belongings of a visiting Hypercom engineer who was about to undergo emergency heart surgery.

From her sworn affidavit of March 25, 1999:

"I went to the house, entered with a key that had been provided to me, and found Mr. Gonzalez waiting there drunk, angry and aggressive. He overpowered me, forced me to a backroom, threw me on the bed, forcibly removed my pantyhose, and brutally sodomized me. I pleaded with him to stop to no avail. As soon as I was able to escape Mr. Gonzalez, I left the house."

Smith says she called an operator on her car phone and asked for a rape crisis agency. A counselor urged her to go to a hospital, and she did -- to Thunderbird Samaritan, where she earlier had taken the sick engineer.

She says a doctor examined her in the emergency room and treated her for lacerations. But Smith wouldn't allow the doctor to use a "rape kit" -- which preserves evidence -- after he told her that would require him to call the police.

Smith says she went to the then-head of human resources the next day to ask for a job transfer. Again, from her affidavit:

"I did not tell him what had happened the night before for a number of reasons; I could ill afford to lose my job since it was the first job I'd had in eight years. . . . I was in the midst of an acrimonious divorce -- my husband was seeking custody, was not working, and was paying nothing towards our support. I was again told . . . that Mr. Gonzalez was extremely important to the company, that it would be 'political suicide' for me to transfer. . . . He further instructed me that I should go along with whatever Mr. Gonzalez needed me to do."

Smith says she told Maryanne Lawson -- then Hypercom's director of international marketing and another of Gonzalez's alleged victims -- about the rape a few days later. (Smith says Lawson never confided in her about her own experiences with Gonzalez, though she suspected something had happened. Lawson could not be reached for comment.)

Hypercom transferred Smith to an almost-completed warehouse on Deer Valley Road. Her job was to organize the new facility for its January 1997 opening.

Smith wasn't working directly for Gonzalez anymore -- she actually was working for his father, Jairo Gonzalez Sr., whom she says treated her respectfully. But when the elder man started to ask her to run errands for his son, she says she again complained to the human resources director, to no avail.

One of those errands in early September 1997 was to go to Gonzalez's home on East Orangewood to tell a housekeeper what to pack for his pending move to another residence. The housekeeper was there -- Smith's attorney says the maid will testify if the case goes to trial -- but Gonzalez sent her on errands. While the woman was gone, Smith alleges, Gonzalez raped her again.

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