Accused man found innocent

Jury ruled man was not guilty in sex assault case

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A jury found a man accused of sexually assaulting a woman at Klumker Field in May inncocent Wednesday.

The decision came after an hourlong jury deliberation and a trial that took about two-and-a-half days.

"We're just happy that they came up with the right and just verdict," said Public Defender Gail Morrison, who represented the man.

The central issue throughout the trial was whether the woman consented to sexual intercourse.

The 35-year-old man, who has lived in the United States for the past 11 years but who grew up in West Africa, testified that the woman consented to sexual intercourse and then told him to stop after they had begun, which he said he promptly did.

The 26-year-old woman, who was a Steamboat Springs resident at the time, testified that she told the man "no" throughout the entire interaction, and that he stopped only after she was able to push him away with her feet.

The man faced two felony charges for sexual assault and for using force during the sexual assault. With the not-guilty verdict, the case was dismissed. District Judge Michael O'Hara also said the man was exonerated of a $5,000 cash bond previously posted.

Wednesday morning, the 12-member jury, made up of eight men and four women, listened to closing arguments from the defense and prosecution. The case began Monday with jury selection, but all evidence was presented by Tuesday afternoon.

Both the woman and man were called as witnesses.

Deputy district attorney Erick Knaus told jurors during his closing argument that there is a "fine line between date and rape," and encouraged them to recognize where that line is and when the man crossed it.

The woman, Knaus said, asked the man to stop throughout the incident.

"She even managed to push him away, initially," Knaus said. "But instead of stopping, the defendant crossed the line between date and rape," he said.

Inconsistencies in the woman's testimony are an example of a real life story that's been told several times, he said. He also said the woman had no motive to tell a story that wasn't true.

In her closing argument, Morrison began by saying that "rape is a horrible, violent act. ... Any person has a right to say no at any time."

But, Morrison said, the incident in question was not a rape.

"That is not what happened here. The first time there was any communication of nonconsent, (the man) stopped," Morrison said.

She told the jury that to find the man guilty of either charge, they would have to be convinced "beyond a reasonable doubt" of his guilt.

Reasonable doubt could come from, for instance, inconsistencies in the woman's testimonies, Morrison said.

She also said that the woman gave the man various nonverbal cues that she consented to the interaction, such as kissing and holding hands. In earlier questionings, she highlighted that the woman was not physically hurt during the incident, she did not scream during the incident and her clothes weren't ripped or dirty.

The incident took place during the late hours of May 16 and early hours of May 17. The man and woman met at a party and decided to go for a walk. They walked to the baseball diamond at Klumker Field and down into the dugout, where they said the incident took place.

-- To reach Susan Bacon, call 871-4203

or e-mail sbacon@steamboatpilot.com

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