By Attorney David Engler
What Happens When a 15 Year Old Girl Accuses 22 Year Old Boy of Rape
It is easier to draft this blog after the jury has come back from 70 minutes of deliberations. In 26 years of practicing law the pressure point of a judge getting ready to say “guilty” or “not guilty” is easily the most excruciating second of time.
On a Thursday night in October of 2010 two girls, one who was petite and at least 20 and the other who was more developed but with a younger face show up at the house of four 22 year old young men. They are carrying a duffel bag and are staying the night. The one is blowing up the cell phone of her soon to be ex-boyfriend who attends college and is not answering any frantic calls after 2:00 a.m.. I ask her on the stand was she crying that night because she thought her boyfriend was with some other girl. She said “no” she was worried about him. When she came in to take the stand, the only thing missing was a rattle and blanket. My client and one of the other four boys did not recognize her. Her hair was in a pony-tail and she wore a shirt buttoned up to the neck. Her sister came to testify as well that she warned everyone at the house that night that her sister was just 14, ready to turn 15. The sister promptly then changed into a leopard print corset and later had the boys sign their names on her chest like they were a rock band. Even later the sister goes to bed with a housemate and sleeps the night. What turns out to be the younger sister goes into the bedroom of my client and they have sex.
The sister on the stand gets a real foggy memory and does not recall if she had to wash sharpie from her chest the next day.
A few days later the younger sister tells her boy-friend who is no longer the ex-boyfriend that she was raped by the older guy at the party. A month later the news slowly gets to the mother, who calls the police and my client, Matt gets charged with 2 counts of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor. The issue for the jury was whether Matt knew or was reckless in not knowing that the girl was either 14 or 15. In Ohio as in most states the age to consent to sex is 16. Matt thought she was 19 and friended her on Facebook the night of the sex and she posted her age as 19.
The jury was a very bright group based upon their education. I left two police officers on the jury. This caused a minor buzz in the Courthouse, since defense attorneys believe police want everyone arrested. I thought differently. I am not sure if it worked but I knew my client had no idea the girl was nearly 15. Police have an instinct to cut through lies quickly and I believed it was the victim, her sister and Mom who would be fibbing through the trial.
So the words came out of Judge Evans’s mouth: “We the jury find Matt not guilty of Count 1 and 2 of the indictment”. I heard a long sigh come from my client. His life was back. One of the woman on the jury asked Matt if he learned a lesson. He did. I am not sure the young girl learned anything since the day of her testimony she posted on her Twitter account, “I solemnly swear that I am up to no good.”
Matt told me he had not been able to take a breath of air or a bite of food over the last 17 months awaiting this trial without thinking of his fate. This is a tale of caution to our sons and daughters. The Mom thought her little girl was at a sleepover and never bothered to check. The girl started telling a lie all because she was playing college girl, was over her head and wanted the attention of her boyfriend. The jury wasn’t able to see this girls Facebook pictures, tweets and texts that portray a very cunning now 16 year old. She could care less who was going to get hurt. For her it was an interesting story of teen drama. For my client and the rest of us it is a story of the risks of casual hook-ups with someone you just met. Protect your daughters……and sons.