A Silicon Valley venture capitalist who drugged his now ex-wife on two occasions by spiking her wine with sleeping pills is embroiled in a bruising legal battle marked by allegations of greed and heavy sexual demands.

During opening arguments Tuesday in the civil trial of Rick Bolander, co-founder of VC shop Gabriel Venture Partners, the attorney for ex-wife Rinske Bolander painted jurors the picture of a man who required sex twice a day and three times while on vacation. But when, after bearing him four children, she stopped meeting his demands, trouble quickly followed.

The problems peaked in the spring of 2007 when he dosed her wine with the sleep drug Ambien and then had nonconsensual sex with her in their Hillsborough home on two separate occasions, Rinske Bolander's attorney, Todd Emanuel, charged in San Mateo County Superior Court.

"Her next memory is of the defendant on top of her and feeling a loss of sensation in her extremities," Emanuel said in reference to a March 7, 2007, incident. "She knew they were having sex. She knew she didn't want it."

Rinske Bolander filed a suit March 3, 2010, that accuses her former husband of domestic violence. She alleges the episodes left her with post-traumatic stress disorder and is seeking an undisclosed amount of damages. Hillsborough police investigated the accusations, but no criminal charges were filed due to lack of evidence, said San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe. The criminal matter was dropped in September 2010.

Her ex-husband's attorney, Chuck Smith, gave a very different story of the case's genesis: greed. He told the panel Rinske Bolander was out for the remains of her former husband's money, which have slipped away with the international economic crisis. In fact, the Ambien episodes, as they came to be known, were all but forgotten until she began to feel Rick Bolander was not giving her the money she deserved as part of their divorce. The couple, though no longer married, continue to fight over custody of their children and how to divide up their property.

So, Rinske Bolander confided to her therapist that she would drag the incidents into court to get what she wanted, Smith said. "Money has a lot do with why we are here," he said.

The attorney did not contest the drugging, calling it a stupid mistake -- but it was done in the hope of rescuing the couple's marriage. During a family law hearing in February 2010, Rick Bolander explained that he read a Catholic marriage guide that suggested reigniting their love life could mend their broken union. Through some research, he got the idea that Ambien was an aphrodisiac.

"It was a desperate and incredibly stupid effort to save a fading marriage," Smith said.

Smith said his client had tried to make his spouse's life as comfortable as possible by paying for two nannies, an assistant and catered meals -- to the tune of $100,000 in 2006 -- yet she pushed him away. He simply wanted her to be happy and relaxed and for their healthy sex life to resume, Smith said.

Testimony in the case is expected to continue Wednesday in the courtroom of San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Robert Foiles.

Contact Joshua Melvin at 650-348-4335.