Sunday, June 18, 2006

Online Dating Man Found Not Guilty Of Rape

Palmerston North, NZ -- A man accused of raping a woman he met on the internet put his head in his hands and cried as the foreman of a jury in the Palmerston North District Court found him not guilty last night.

The 31-year-old Wellington man was charged with one count of sexual violation and one count of rape following his first meeting with the woman at her Palmerston North home on June 9 last year.

The pair met on at the beginning of June last year, swapping sexually explicit email, chat room and text messages before arranging to meet at the woman's home on June 9.

The man was introduced to the woman's flatmate and sister before spending an hour-and-a-half alone together in the woman's bedroom. The woman told the court during this time the man forced himself on her, sexually violating then raping her. She said she was not restrained, did not call out for help and "gave in" to the man's demands.

He told police the pair kissed and engaged in foreplay before having consensual sex. The man said when the woman told him she felt uncomfortable because she had feelings for someone else, they stopped and he left soon afterwards. Soon after leaving the man sent her a text message that read: "I feel bad, sorry for raping you."

The jury took three hours to reach its verdict after retiring at 2.45pm yesterday.

Earlier in the day, defence counsel Val Nisbet called the man's psychiatrist to give evidence.

Christopher Roman met with the accused regularly since his arrest and explained to the court why he may have sent the incriminating text message.

"He tends to apologise profusely and take responsibility for things that are not of his own doing," Dr Roman said. He said the man avoided conflict and took responsibility for awkward situations as a "coping strategy".

Dr Roman said he once tested his observation by accusing the man of being late for an appointment when he was, in fact, on time. He said the man apologised and said it wouldn't happen again even though he knew he was not late. Under cross examination from Crown prosecutor Andru Isac Dr Roman accepted there was a big difference between admitting being half-an-hour late and admitting to raping someone.

In his closing argument, Mr Isac told the jury despite what communications the pair had leading up to the meeting, the woman made it clear she did not want to have sex. Mr Isac said the text message the man sent after the incident was an admission of what he had done.

"That's not sarcasm. That's not a fanciful personality characteristic of apologising for things he hadn't done.

"It's probably the most honest thing he's said because he knew full well what he'd done. He knew full well he did not have consent to do those things."

In his closing argument, Mr Nisbet said the woman regretted having sex with his client but what happened in her bedroom that night was consensual.

"You are not guilty of rape because a woman reluctantly acquiesces. She consented and when she said stop and when she said no, it stopped."

Mr Nisbet said the woman sent explicit messages to the accused, even describing how she wanted to have sex with him.

"She had sex, may have been reluctant to do so, and then regretted it afterwards. It doesn't make it rape."

No comments: