June 3, 2001. The first accuser, 36-year-old L.B., says she tried to fight Marc Winner off but was impaired by the drinks she’d had at the bar, especially the one he’d given her at the end of the night. She later told prosecutors it made her memory hazy; in hindsight, she suspects he drugged her.
She also couldn’t move. According to her statement to police, he had grabbed her by the throat, choking her, and had pinned her inside an open tanning bed at the suburban salon he managed. She says it felt like being in a coffin. Then, she told police, he stripped off her clothes and raped her.
July 17, 2009. Accuser No. 2, a 24-year-old referred to as J.B. in court records, told prosecutors that she kept telling Winner to stop and tried to push him away, but he ignored her, pulling her dress and underwear off, ripping out her tampon, and holding her down on his bed. He then got on top of her, she alleged, and began to rape her. Desperate to stop him, according to the account she gave to police, she cried out that she had a sexually transmitted disease. “Which one?” he asked angrily. “Chlamydia,” she replied. He pulled out but kept her restrained with his knees. Then, according to her account, he reached over to the nightstand, got a condom, put it on, and continued assaulting her, calling her “dirty” and “disgusting” and telling her to shut up as she sobbed.
September 28, 2010. The 30-year-old woman who would become the third accuser, M.T., alleges that she tried to leave the apartment Winner had taken her to when she’d given him a ride from a nearby bar. But he held her at knifepoint and cut the straps of her corset top, she told police. He then set the knife aside and wrestled her to the couch, she says. Realizing that she was about to be raped, she made two last-ditch requests: that he give her a shot of alcohol and that he use a condom. He obliged her, she told police.
July 18, 2012. Accuser No. 4, 33-year-old A.H., had started to doze off on Winner’s couch in the early hours of the morning, having accepted his offer first of a free tanning session at the West Loop salon he owned and then of a nightcap at his apartment. She woke up, prosecutors say, when he began sexually assaulting her. She claims he pushed her down, forcefully removed her T-shirt-style dress, and penetrated her. “Get off, stop!” she repeatedly cried out, but he wouldn’t, prosecutors say. When he was finished, she pretended to sleep, and after he drove her home later that morning, she remembers, she vomited.
August 21, 2015. The most recent accuser, 26-year-old C.R., who had accepted Winner’s invitation to smoke pot in his apartment after making the fateful decision to go for a late-night tanning session at his salon, told police she was surprised by his strength—by how quickly he overpowered her, pinned her to his bed, and tore off her clothes and by the force of his grip around her throat, which made it difficult for her to breathe while he was penetrating her. She says she cried and told him that he was hurting her, but, she told police, he just laughed and said that he “was only halfway in” and was going to ejaculate on her face. When it was over, she says, she was afraid to leave, fearing Winner would harm her further if she tried to exit the apartment. Sometime later, she alleges, he raped her again, this time biting hard on her nipples as he choked her. Afterward, according to C.R.’s police report, he got in the shower and started singing.
On a sunny morning this September, Marc Winner sat alone, stonefaced and silent, in the back row of benches in the public area of courtroom 203 of the Leighton Criminal Court Building at 26th and California. Nearly six feet tall with dark hair, he wore a navy pinstripe suit that was too big on him, making him look small. As a procession of defendants passed before the judge and Winner waited for his name to be called, the 45-year-old North Shore native kept his hands in his lap and cracked his knuckles nervously. Every now and then, he slumped his shoulders and lowered his head into his hands. His black pointy-toed boots hid a court-ordered ankle monitor, which he’d had to wear since being released from Cook County Jail about a month earlier. City officials had recently closed Winner’s West Loop tanning salon, Soleil, because he hadn’t renewed the business license.
Winner was in court for a pretrial hearing. He is being criminally charged, in four separate indictments, with raping J.B., M.T., A.H., and C.R. His first accuser, L.B., though mentioned in the prosecutors’ filings, is not included in the indictments, as the statute of limitations has elapsed for her 15-year-old alleged rape. Additionally, prosecutors cite the accounts of four other women who they believe to be victims of Winner but who haven’t taken legal action, either because the statute of limitations has elapsed or because they declined to press charges.
Winner’s alleged modus operandi in all the cases was similar. According to prosecutors, he would lure women into his salon with free tanning sessions or other perks, or he would pick them up at bars. He would use liquor and drugs to incapacitate them, either before or after taking them to his apartment across the street from the salon. Then he would overpower his victims physically, sometimes by choking them.
Prosecutors consistently argued against setting bail. “Every minute the defendant is free on bond he poses a real and present threat to the women of Chicago,” they said. But after Winner’s September 2015 arrest in C.R.’s case, Judge Carol Howard set a $500,000 bond. Winner made bail—by posting 10 percent of the full bond amount—less than a week after being jailed. In April 2016, prosecutors brought renewed charges against Winner in J.B.’s case (which had previously been dropped) and in A.H.’s. On April 30 he was jailed again, and a different judge denied bail. While he was in jail, he was charged in the fourth case, M.T.’s. On August 3, Judge Howard set a combined $125,000 bond for the third and fourth indictments—and also set a 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. curfew and ordered Winner to wear the ankle monitor. On August 9 Winner made bail again.
Winner’s departure from the courthouse on that hot August evening was, as Ben Bradley of ABC-7 observed on Twitter, “one of the more bizarre perp walks” he’d ever seen. Desperate to dodge the TV cameras and the reporters shouting questions, Winner sprinted off, racing down the sidewalk and then onto the busy street, high-stepping it between passing cars before getting into a waiting Jeep. Video of the scene went viral.
For now, Winner sits and waits, showing up for pretrial hearings like the one I observed in September. He has pleaded not guilty to all of the charges. If convicted in all four cases, he could spend the rest of his life in prison. In the minds of Winner’s accusers, the cases against him represent the possibility of vindication after many years of squandered opportunities and delayed justice.
In the 1970s, when Michael and Diane Winner moved with their three children, Gary, Lisa, and Marc, from a modest townhome in Northbrook to a large modern house, with a circular driveway in front and a swimming pool in back, on Winfield Drive in Winnetka, they surely felt they’d made it.
“They lived in this beautiful house,” recalls a family friend. “I mean, beautiful. You’d drive by it and you’d be like, ‘Oh my God.’ ”
Winfield Drive was an exclusive street, lined with impressive homes surrounded by lushly landscaped grounds. Steve Zucker, the hotshot sports agent who represented Jim McMahon and Deion Sanders, lived across from the Winners. The real estate tycoon Eugene Golub lived a few houses down. “In the ’80s and ’90s, this was the crème de la crème of New Trier society if you weren’t Sheridan Road, WASPy old money,” says a former classmate of Marc’s, alluding to the famously high-performing high school they attended. (All the Winner family acquaintances I talked to requested anonymity, either to preserve relationships with family members or out of fear of retribution.)
Michael Winner had earned his money in the trading pits of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, and by all outward appearances he and his family enjoyed the fruits of his success and led a relatively happy life. “They just seemed like the perfect family,” says the friend. Marc’s older brother, Gary, now 54, was good-looking and confident to the point of cocky, friends recall. He played football and basketball at New Trier West, and he drove a sports car. Marc’s sister, Lisa, now 50, was pretty and popular.
Marc was different.
“He was a brutal little kid—aggressive as hell,” remembers one of Gary’s friends from high school. Marc’s former classmate echoes that: “He was a real shit stirrer,” he says. “He went out of his way to be an ass. If you had any internal radar, you knew to stay away from him.”
Marc seemed spoiled and entitled, another high school classmate recalls, and didn’t readily accept no as an answer. The classmate paraphrases a typical conversation: “Gimme a ride.” “No, Marc, you can’t have a ride.” “Gimme a ride, gimme a ride, gimme a ride, gimme a ride.” Says the classmate: “He was just gonna get his way.”
After Marc got his own car, for a time he had vanity plates that read “partyr.” Police records show that during high school alone, he was stopped a dozen times for speeding and other moving violations. Reckless driving would remain a constant. Over the years, according to court records, Winner has racked up 67 traffic violations, including three DUIs.
He was 19 when he was first arrested. He was charged with theft and battery by Skokie police after he and a friend knocked a woman to the ground and took her credit card and keys. Public records show that the case was “stricken off,” meaning, essentially, that prosecutors dismissed the charges but could reinstate them in the event of further violations. Arrests on charges of disorderly conduct, driving on a revoked license, battery, and possession and intent to sell marijuana and cocaine would eventually follow. Lake County and Cook County court records show that most resulted in reduced or dropped charges. A police report from April 1994, when Winner was 23, is telling: After arresting him for urinating on the sidewalk in the South Loop, the officer who filed the report noted—in underlined all caps—that Winner was “combative, uncooperative, and intoxicated.” That arrest, too, ended with charges being dropped.
On February 6, 1999, police in Highland Park received a 911 call about a domestic incident at Michael and Diane Winner’s townhouse on Laurel Avenue, where they had moved in the early 1990s. According to the police report, arriving officers encountered a woman, kneeling and crying, by the front door. (Her name has been redacted from the report.) A physical altercation had taken place, the woman told police, after Marc had tried to prevent her from leaving the house. After he started pushing her, she tried to call 911, but he snatched her phone. She ran into the kitchen and managed to place the call. The police officers entered the house and helped the woman find her keys, and in doing so they turned up about a pound of marijuana, plus smoking pipes, drug scales, plastic bags, and a 10-gram rock of cocaine.
After being indicted for possession with intent to sell cocaine, Winner was found guilty and received just two years’ special probation, which allowed him to avoid having a conviction on his record.
Marc may have been the black sheep among his siblings during their youth, but later on, other cracks would become visible in the Winner family façade. In November 2011, Gary made news after he pleaded guilty to federal charges of defrauding Medicare out of $2.2 million between 2005 and 2009. According to court records, he had purchased cheap penis-enlargement pumps from an adult website and marketed them to diabetes patients as therapeutic devices, billing Medicare $284 for each one. In a sentencing memorandum, Gary’s lawyers contended that his criminal actions stemmed largely from the “physical and psychological abuse” that Gary had suffered since childhood at the hands of his father. Michael Winner, according to the memo, was career obsessed, “determined to be financially successful above all else.” The memo went on: “Always volatile, he developed alcohol and drug habits that exacerbated his anger and drove him to constantly demean and physically abuse his wife and eldest son.” Gary’s mother, the memo alleged, “handled the situation by becoming increasingly emotionally withdrawn, focusing on the material things that her husband provided and leaving her children unprotected.”
Michael Winner was unable to address the allegations against him, having died in June 2009. In February 2012, Gary was ordered to serve 37 months in federal prison. He now lives in Southern California, where he works as an anger-management consultant.
Like the other members of his family, Marc Winner refused to be interviewed for this article. He offered nothing more than an icy glare when I approached him at the courthouse, and he hung up when I called him. Steven Weinberg, one of his lawyers, also declined to comment. Similarly, a spokeswoman for the Cook County state’s attorney’s office would not discuss any of the four criminal sexual assault cases because they are still pending. Of Winner’s accusers, I was able to speak to two.
One of them is L.B., whose real name is Lesley Barton. She is the only accuser who has publicly come forward using her real name. She spoke to me by phone from Florida, where she now works as a real estate agent.
In June 2001, Barton was a 36-year-old political consultant and fundraiser living in Glenview. On a cool Saturday night, as she recounted to police and later to me, she and some friends were out for drinks at a popular local tavern, Potato Creek Johnny’s, when she ran into a neighbor of hers. The neighbor introduced her to Winner, who at the time was working at a Glenview tanning salon called Tanning Oasis.
“I said, ‘I already know him,’ ” Barton recalls.
Winner asked how she knew him.
“The tanning salon,” Barton answered. “You once screamed at me for no reason.” She’d been a customer and remembered Winner berating her for asking if her tanning session package was transferable.
Later in the evening, Barton says, Winner tried to make peace. “I was wrong,” she recalls him telling her. “I shouldn’t treat people like that.” He offered her a drink.
After having a few sips, she says, “something started feeling weird, foggy.” Figuring she was just hungry, she asked her neighbor if he wanted to go to another bar for Buffalo wings. He declined, but Winner offered to take her. She got in his car.
Next thing she remembers, they were parked outside the tanning salon. He needed to close up for the night, Barton recalls him telling her. She says she followed him inside to use the bathroom.
“Suddenly I hear from behind me the turning of the lock,” she says. “That’s when my whole body cringed.”
Here her memory falters. She told police she remembered the following: She’s in a tanning room. He’s coming toward her. She shoves him away and says she wants to leave. He grabs her and says, “You’re not going anywhere.”
“And then the rest of it …,” she says, stopping to fight back tears. “The next morning I could barely speak. I had an extraordinary amount of pain in my neck. I looked in the mirror and saw bruises everywhere. They looked like fingerprints on my neck.”
She couldn’t remember how she had gotten injured. “I was drawing blanks,” she says. “I knew I had been with my friends, I knew where I’d been, I knew everything. But part of me was gone. I’m looking at my neck, and I’m like, What the hell happened to me?”
Soon, though, the flashbacks started. “The first one I got was of him strangling me, his hands wrapped around my neck.”
After that, she says, the memories came flooding back: Winner slamming her head against a tanning bed; Winner pulling down her pants as she struggled to keep them on; and, most vividly, Winner putting on a condom before penetrating her. She recalls with horror the sound of the condom going on. “For years I couldn’t get that sound—that snap—out of my head.”
Five days later, still in shock, she went to the Glenview police station. A detective examined her neck and head, but by then, she says, the bruises had faded. Officers recorded her account. Police arrested Winner for criminal sexual assault three days later.
The same evening Winner was arrested, Barton returned to the Glenview police station to meet with a Cook County felony review prosecutor, whose job was to screen potential cases brought to him by police and make charging decisions. “He acted rushed, like it was just a pain in the ass to be there,” Barton recalls.
She says he asked her whether she was telling the truth after he failed to see any injuries on her neck.
Then, Barton says, the prosecutor started questioning her aggressively. “He was just tearing me to shreds,” she says. “He goes, ‘The door was glass—why didn’t you break it down? When you got out of there, why didn’t you run to the nearest house and scream and yell and tell them you were raped?’ ”
When the meeting ended, she says, the prosecutor told her that the best they could do would be to charge Winner with misdemeanor battery. This struck Barton as supremely ironic, given that, minutes earlier, the prosecutor had told her he saw no evidence of injury.
“I said, ‘That’s it?’ ” Barton recalls.
In disbelief, she turned to the detective who had arrested Winner. She remembers him replying with both sympathy and resignation. “If we get him for battery and if he ever gets arrested again for rape, he’ll go down,” the detective said, according to her account.
Barton was stunned. “So, what you’re telling me,” she remembers saying, “is that the best I can hope for is some other woman gets raped and then he’ll go to jail?
“He looked at me and he said, ‘I’m sorry, yes.’ ”
Winner pleaded guilty to the reduced charges of battery. He received two years’ probation.
In October 2001, a few months after his close call in the Lesley Barton case, Winner filed paperwork to open his own tanning salon on Madison Street in the booming West Loop. He named his business Soleil, which means “sun” in French.
Funded in part by the well-known futures broker Barry Lind, who’d been a close friend and colleague of Winner’s father, Winner invested in top-of-the-line tanning beds, which came with features like body misters, stereo speakers, and aromatherapy diffusers. He created a sophisticated, spa-like atmosphere in order to attract high-end customers, and in the manner of a celebrity hairstylist, he put his name front and center on the storefront awning: “A Marc Winner Tanning Salon.”
By most accounts, Soleil, which opened early and closed late, was a success. “It was insanely busy,” says a resident of the condo building above the salon. “At 7 a.m. there were people tanning. Late night, people were tanning.”
A number of Yelp reviewers raved about Soleil. “I can’t believe the quality of the tanning beds in this place,” said one review in 2011. “I don’t know how they do it—each machine must cost gazillions.”
For many Yelp reviewers, Soleil’s only notable shortcoming was its owner. Several complained on Yelp about Winner’s unwanted advances, rudeness, and inappropriate flirtations. In June 2014, Winner sued three reviewers for defamation and commercial disparagement after they posted strongly negative comments. Yelp removed the posts in question, and the case remains in limbo, but documents filed by Winner’s lawyers cite reviews describing Winner as a “serial rapist,” a “sex offender,” and a “peeping Tom.” Other reviewers called him “creepy,” “incredibly slimy,” a “total pervert,” and a “weirdo.” One warned: “owner will creep you out. do not step near here. relentlessly solicits women on madison street.”
“Send the police to Soleil, I’m going to get raped,” J.B. implored her sister in a cell phone call at around 1:30 a.m. on July 17, 2009, according to police records.
J.B.’s evening had begun a few hours earlier at the West Loop bar Market. J.B., who lived in the far southwest suburbs and had come to the city to go shopping and have dinner with friends, had once worked at Soleil. After running into Winner at the bar and drinking together for a while, she and a friend decided to leave with him. The women needed to use the bathroom. Winner offered them his. His apartment was walking distance.
This is what happened next, according to J.B.’s account to police: They went up to Winner’s apartment. He said he had whatever drug they wanted. He dumped a large amount of cocaine on the kitchen counter, and J.B. snorted a line. Sometime later, J.B.’s friend left. When J.B. started texting someone, Winner grabbed her phone. Then, she says, he became aggressive and, according to the report, started “acting strange.” She wanted to get out of his apartment, so she suggested going across the street to Soleil. Once there, according to the police report, Winner, who had given the phone back, showed her the new Matrix tanning bed he had just bought and asked J.B. to tan in it with him. She said no, and Winner grew angry. She went into a different room and made the frantic call to her sister. At this point, Winner snatched her cell phone again. According to the police report, Winner then seized J.B. by the arm and dragged her back to his apartment as her phone rang nonstop.
At his apartment, J.B. told police, she tried to act like everything was OK, hoping to calm Winner down. When J.B.’s sister called again, Winner let her answer it. According to the sister’s account, also cited in the report, she could hear Winner in the background telling her to pick up J.B. in the morning. Then, the sister told police, she overheard J.B. yell, “No, Marc, I’m not spending the night with you.”
The report states that Winner then took the phone away a third time, and J.B.’s sister told him she wanted to pick up J.B. Winner allegedly threw the phone across the room. Then, the report says, he raped J.B.
When he was done, according to the report, Winner went to take a shower. J.B. found her phone and called her sister, who claims she heard Winner in the background asking J.B., “Why are you crying, baby?”
Here the police report states that J.B. screamed back: “You know what you did!” Then she ran out of the apartment.
Just after she’d exited Winner’s building, a police officer called J.B.’s cell phone. She told the officer she was hiding around the corner and that Winner was following her. The officer asked if she could see any open businesses. She said she saw a Dominick’s grocery store, and the officer instructed her to run there. She did, she later told police, with Winner in pursuit.
“Where are you going?” she says he yelled to her.
“You fucking raped me,” she answered, still running away.
Police officers picked up J.B. at the Dominick’s and took her to a nearby hospital, where a rape kit was administered.
Winner was arrested a month later—police records do not reveal the reason for the delay—and after investigators collected DNA samples, a felony review prosecutor recommended deferring the case pending the results from the analysis of J.B.’s rape kit. The rape kit results wouldn’t make it into the hands of investigators for more than three years.
In late 2010, a little over a year after J.B.’s alleged assault, the account of another rape emerged. Winner was at the now-defunct Near North Side nightclub Stone Lotus, where, according to the police report, he met a 30-year-old part-time escort, M.T. She had been stood up by a friend and started talking to Winner at the bar.
In her account to police, she recalled having met Winner at the club before and thought he seemed harmless and trustworthy. At the end of the night, she agreed to give him a ride back to a high-rise apartment on Sheridan Road in the Edgewater neighborhood. (Efforts to reach the apartment’s owner, whom Cook County property tax records list as Marcia Winner, were unsuccessful.) He invited her up and, according to M.T.’s account, offered her some pot. At this point, she recounted to police, she told him she had to leave. She gathered her things and started for the door.
Winner got out a kitchen knife, prosecutors say, and, after a struggle, pinned her to the couch. It was at this moment that she asked for a shot of alcohol and pleaded with him to wear a condom. After he’d acceded to both demands, according to the report, he lifted up her dress, pushed aside her panties, and began raping her. She slept overnight on the couch, she says, because she didn’t want to drive after drinking, having already been charged with a couple of DUIs. During the night, she told police, Winner tried to rape her again, but he couldn’t maintain an erection.
M.T. waited eight weeks before she reported the alleged rape to police. When detectives trying to follow up couldn’t reach her, according to the police reports, they suspended the case. In mid-December, detectives succeeded in reaching M.T., but she failed to show up for four scheduled interviews, saying she’d forgotten about them. The police report shows that on December 27 detectives ruled the case as unfounded.
About a year and a half later, on July 24, 2012, a 33-year-old woman, identified in court papers as A.H., walked into the 18th District police station on the Near North Side and told the officer at the desk that, six days earlier, she had been raped by Winner.
According to her statement, her evening had begun with dinner out with friends, followed by a visit to Soleil. Winner offered A.H. a free tanning session and then invited her and her friends to his apartment, where he proffered booze and prescription pills. Eventually, A.H. recounted, her friends left and she fell asleep on Winner’s couch. She awoke to him attacking her.
When it was over, she pretended to fall back asleep. After A.H. went to the police station, detectives tried to contact her, but she never responded, and the detectives suspended the case just nine days after she reported the incident.
Located and reinterviewed in 2016 as part of the currently pending cases against Winner, A.H. told police and prosecutors that Winner called and texted her the following Valentine’s Day. She claims he thanked her for not pressing charges. Then, she says, he asked her out. She didn’t reply.
One night that same summer, a young woman identified in prosecutors’ filings as T.G. encountered Winner, whom she already knew through a friend, at the now-shuttered West Loop steakhouse Carmichael’s.
T.G. is the other of the two accusers I was able to talk to. Speaking by phone from California, where she now lives, she described her impressions of Winner before that night. “He was kinda cocky but dorky,” she told me. “He had a Porsche. He would just drive around—and drive fast.” T.G. also described how he would stand in front of Soleil and solicit women to come inside: “I always thought that was creepy. He was always on the prowl.”
T.G. recalls that Winner often had Vicodin and other prescription drugs. “My friend would sometimes say, ‘Hey, let’s stop by Marc’s and get some pills.’ ” On this particular night—T.G. doesn’t remember the exact date—she was drinking with Winner and her friend. After that, she says, her memory goes blank. She says she woke up the next morning, naked, in Winner’s bed. Something was terribly wrong. Her vagina was sore. She had a splitting headache. Confused, T.G. found her friend, who was passed out in the living room. Her friend had no memory of how the previous evening had ended, either. They left Winner’s apartment immediately. “I just wanted to get out,” T.G. told me.
T.G., who is discussing her alleged rape with a journalist for the first time, says she and her friend both believe Winner drugged them and that T.G. was raped while incapacitated. Although T.G.’s account is cited by prosecutors in the cases now pending against Winner—how she came to prosecutors’ attention isn’t clear from court documents—T.G. never pressed charges. “I just wanted to forget everything,” she says, “because it’s just—it’s humiliating, and I didn’t want to deal with it.”
It wasn’t until 2013 that anyone in law enforcement began to connect the various accusations of sexual violence by Winner over the previous dozen years. The catalyst was not an accuser of Winner’s, but a male acquaintance.
In March 2013, Chicago police received an anonymous tip that Winner had sexually assaulted a woman he knew, and possibly others. The tipster, whom I tracked down after finding his name in court papers, spoke to me by phone on the condition of anonymity. He told me he knew Winner through mutual friends and frequented Soleil, and that he would sometimes drive Winner and a friend to the Horseshoe Casino in Hammond, Indiana. “They would pay me a decent amount of money to drive them to the casino, ’cause I don’t drink,” the acquaintance says. “They gambled in the high-roller area every time.” The acquaintance recalls one particularly unlucky evening when he had to help a pit boss physically remove a heavily intoxicated and belligerent Winner from the casino.
Echoing what he told prosecutors, the acquaintance also describes how Winner liked to drive around late at night in search of drunk women coming out of the bars around closing time. “He would troll around in his Porsche at, like, 3, 4, in the morning,” the acquaintance says. “He’s driving, like, way too fast, going 40 or 50 miles an hour on city streets. He’s like, ‘Hey, baby, you want a ride home? You want a drink? Anything you want, just come with me.’ ”
Concerned that he might be asked to testify in court, the acquaintance would not elaborate on the alleged sexual assault that he cited in his tip to police, but whatever the details, they were enough to prompt a detective to run a search of Winner’s name, which turned up the long-dormant July 2009 investigation against Winner in the incident involving J.B. Noting that J.B.’s case had been suspended pending the results of her rape kit, the detective called the state crime lab and discovered that the results were in fact available, though for unknown reasons they’d apparently never been conveyed to police.
The results? DNA material found on J.B.’s breast belonged to Winner. Police were sent to his West Loop apartment the next day; the police report shows that he attempted to escape by climbing over his fifth-floor balcony but eventually surrendered. It also shows that he had $5,000 on him at the time of his arrest.
Winner wasn’t held for long. Three weeks after his arrest, a Cook County judge, Adam Bourgeois Jr., dropped the charges against Winner in J.B.’s case, finding that the complaint lacked probable cause.
Winner may have gotten off, but he was now squarely on the radar of police and prosecutors.
More than two years would pass before another arrest. In August 2015, Winner’s most recent accuser, C.R., accompanied Winner to a West Loop sports bar after a late-night tanning session at Soleil, according to the report she gave police. C.R. told investigators that he bought her vodka sodas and shots of tequila. Winner, she recalled, talked to her about a new pizza restaurant he planned on opening. A bartender later told police that they “seemed very comfortable” and were “touching and holding hands”; C.R. told police the opposite was true.
When they left, according to the report, Winner asked her for a ride home. She dropped him off, but when she started to drive away, she says, she slammed her black BMW into a parked car. Winner saw what happened and came back out. Soon the police arrived. Winner, C.R. recounted in her statement, “started to sweet-talk the officers.” Somehow it worked: no DUI, just an accident report. As they waited in the lobby of Winner’s building for a tow truck, Winner asked if C.R. wanted to go upstairs and smoke pot. She told prosecutors she said yes because she felt indebted to Winner for his help.
She told police that after taking a bong hit, she “felt out of it” and texted her boyfriend to pick her up. Then Winner suddenly “mauled her” and she tried to push him off, she told police, but he quickly overpowered her and carried her to his bedroom, where, she says, he choked and raped her. In her statement to police and prosecutors, C.R. said “she could not breathe and felt like her eyes were going to pop out of her head.”
When it was over, C.R. said, she was so disoriented and afraid that she didn’t try to run; she went back with him into the living room. Soon she heard her phone ring. When she went for it, Winner allegedly grabbed her leg and pulled her to the floor. Then, prosecutors say, he raped her again. Eventually, around 4:15 a.m., C.R. was able to call her boyfriend. While Winner was showering, she told police, she took two watches from his nightstand. “She felt so powerless and angry that she wanted to do anything she could to hurt Marc,” according to prosecutors. As she was leaving, she told police, Winner grabbed her by the neck again and said he’d see her soon.
C.R. didn’t want to go straight home or to the hospital. She felt “too ashamed,” she told police. Instead, she went to her boyfriend’s place, where she “slept on the floor because she felt dirty and didn’t want to dirty his bed.” Records show that she went to Northwestern Memorial Hospital the next day.
In court documents, Winner’s lawyer Steven Weinberg describes the incident with C.R. as “a consensual yet remorseful encounter between two adults.”
Winner was arrested about five weeks later and indicted that same week. The arrest made the local TV news.
In Florida, Lesley Barton got a call from a friend: “Lesley, Marc Winner’s been arrested.” Barton read about it online. Instead of being relieved, she was furious. The report mentioned that a previous case from 2009—J.B.’s—had been dismissed. “I said, ‘Wait, how could there be a previous [case] and I wasn’t contacted?’ They had my file. They promised me years earlier that my file would help put him away.”
It didn’t. City prosecutors later told Barton that her file hadn’t come to their attention because it was a suburban case and thus stored in a different database.
Still, the momentum to aggressively prosecute Winner had built significantly. In April 2016, prosecutors contacted Chicago police detectives requesting that they reinterview A.H. That led to Winner’s indictment on those charges on April 30. Just eight days earlier, Winner had been charged anew and indicted in J.B.’s case. Then, in early July, prosecutors asked police to talk again to M.T. On July 20, her complaint turned into the fourth indictment.
The additional indictments have offered Barton little consolation. She says that the prosecutors’ oversights still gnaw at her. “Maybe if they’d had my file, they would’ve treated these women a whole lot better,” she says. “ ‘Oh, hey, he was arrested for criminal sexual assault back in 2001!’ Also, if they had his file, they’d know it was as big as War and Peace. But somehow, someway, these women …” She chokes back tears. “Maybe they would not have had to go through what I went through.
“I feel the system failed us all.”
Soleil now sits empty. Two signs are plastered to the glass doors: “Business Closed by Order of City of Chicago.” Inside, shelves are still lined with tanning lotions and oils. Magazines are still neatly arrayed on the glass bench in the waiting area. The space remains leased in Winner’s name, but his landlords have gone to court to evict him, citing nonpayment of rent.
Across town, at the corner of LaSalle Street and Chicago Avenue, another storefront sits empty. This is where Winner had planned to open a pizzeria. A sign in the window reads, “Coming soon: Zazza Pizza Company.” The owner of this space has also filed a lawsuit to evict Winner, claiming he failed to open the restaurant by the agreed-upon date and, given his legal troubles, is unlikely to do so in the near future.
Winner’s lawyer has said in court that his client is “anxious” to go to trial and confident that “the case will come out in his favor.” As for Winner’s accusers, they are anxious, too—to see justice served and to see a person they believe to be a predator taken off the streets.
For Barton, the wait has been particularly grueling. She says she spent years obsessed with Winner, hoping that one day he’d be caught. A few years back, she says, she thought about spray-painting the word “rape” all over his salon. Eventually, though, she came to a realization: “I was building a jail, my own jail. He was out free, and here I am building this jail made of bricks of shame, blame, anger, rage, pain. It was like, Really? C’mon!”
Without naming Winner specifically, Barton began to talk about her experience on social media and to journalists. When Barton learned of Winner’s arrest in the C.R. case in 2015, she decided to identify herself as one of his victims. She also became an outspoken proponent of eliminating the statute of limitations for rape—not just in Illinois but nationwide. “I think the statutes of limitation are archaic,” says Barton. “You’ve got no statute of limitations in Colorado for forgery but you do for rape?”
In September, due in large part to the so-called Bill Cosby effect—the entertainer has been accused of rape by more than 50 women, but only one criminal case has been filed because the legal time period for prosecution has elapsed in most of the remaining instances—California eliminated its statute of limitations for rape. Illinois—which requires rape victims to file a report within three years, at which point prosecutors have 10 years to bring charges—hasn’t gone that far yet, but Governor Bruce Rauner in August signed into law legislation aimed at encouraging more victims of sexual assault to come forward and file reports.
The law, which goes into effect on January 1, mandates a more victim-centered approach in responding to and investigating sexual assaults by requiring new training procedures for police, prosecutors, first responders, and even 911 operators, including adopting a more sensitive and nonjudgmental manner in questioning victims and building a better understanding of how victims cope with trauma. The law also requires police to complete a written report of every sexual assault complaint and lengthens the amount of time—to five years, from the current limit of just two weeks—that victims are given to agree to release their rape kits for forensic testing.
The extent to which such a law would have changed the course of events for Lesley Barton and Winner’s other alleged victims is unclear. The legislation doesn’t, for example, directly address the low rate of successful prosecution that plagues sexual assault cases. The lack of convictions is the result, many advocates say, of a law-enforcement and prosecutorial culture that diminishes the credibility of accusers in cases of sexual violence, especially those in which the accuser and alleged offender know each other.
The fact remains that if Winner does end up being convicted, he will be a rarity. Of the thousands of sexual assaults committed in this country each year—the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one in five American women is raped or suffers an attempted rape in her lifetime—only 2 percent lead to a conviction and jail time, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.
And so for now, with Illinois’s statute of limitations still firmly in place and all four cases against Marc Winner bogged down in pretrial proceedings, Winner’s accusers hope and wait.