Livingston County Court Judge Dennis Cohen acquitted a 2008 Geneseo graduate on charges of rape in the third degree in Livingston County Court on Monday.
The defendant had been charged after an incident that occurred on October 18, 2007.
Livingston County District Attorney Thomas Moran opened the trial, noting that the defendant and the plaintiff had previously had sexual relations before the incident but in the past both parties had consented and used a condom.
In his opening statement, Moran referenced the dangers of unprotected sex. "This is different from getting pregnant in the back of a '57 Chevy. She has the right to say, 'We can't have sex without a condom,' because it's too dangerous."
"Rape is a horrific, heinous act," countered Greg McCaffrey, the defendant's attorney, who proceeded to argue that the he had stopped when the victim had asked him to. "If it was truly a rape, my client wouldn't have stopped," he said. McCaffrey later explained that the defendant and the victim had been, for lack of better words, "friends with benefits," before the incident.
Several witnesses were called to the stand by Moran, including two forensic biologists, one of the plaintiff's housemates, Strong Hospital sexual assault nurse examiner Alexandra Schneider, and Wyoming County Sheriff Deputy Christopher Bryant, who worked for the Geneseo Police Department at the time of the incident and responded to the scene.
The plaintiff's housemate claimed that, upon arriving home on the day of the incident, the plaintiff appeared to be distraught. The housemate claimed once he left, the plaintiff was "in shock," and she and their other housemate tried to console her. She said that the plaintiff still is troubled by the incident. "She has higher levels of anxiety," she said. "A lot of things trigger emotions in her that remind her of that time."
After a brief recess, the trial resumed with the victim taking the stand. She said that in November 2006, she and the defendant started a physical relationship and saw each other on and off until early in the fall 2007 semester.
Around this time, the plaintiff, under the influence of alcohol, went to the defendant's house where they had anal sex. The plaintiff claimed that she screamed and that the act was against her will.
On Oct. 18, 2007, the defendant and the plaintiff met again. A professor, after finding the plaintiff's cell phone left in a classroom, called the defendant because his name was the first recognized on the contact list. They met in order for the plaintiff to retrieve her phone and they ended up getting ice cream together and going to the plaintiff's apartment, where, according to the plaintiff, they "started reconnecting."
According to the plaintiff, she had consensual oral sex, but the plaintiff claimed that she did not want to engage in intercourse because neither of them had a condom. In her testimony, the plaintiff claimed that, despite her five or six pleas to stop, the defendant persisted. The plaintiff admitted that if a condom had been obtainable, she probably would have consented to sex with.
After the plaintiff's testimony, the defendant took the stand. He claimed that after the plaintiff put her hands on his chest during intercourse, he had stopped. After his testimony, Judge Cohen acquitted him of the charges of rape in the third degree.
The defendant, a native of Nigeria and permanent resident of the United States without full citizenship would likely have been deported if he had been convicted.
"He maintained his innocence throughout this whole thing and basically waited a year to tell his story," said McCaffrey of his client.
Moran spoke highly of the plaintiff. "I'm very proud of the victim. This is a very difficult endeavor," he said. "I believe she took a leadership role in standing up for all SUNY students when she testified."
Several Geneseo students attended the trial and wore turquoise ribbons promoting sexual assault awareness. Senior Emily Pisacreta, who attended the trial said, "It seems like the legal system can't really respond to this problem when it comes down to 'he said, she said.'"