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Entries in Acquittal (10)

Saturday
Mar022013

Former Montana Quarterback Jordan Johnson Acquitted of Rape Charges

ABC News(MISSOULA, Mo.) -- Former University of Montana star quarterback Jordan Johnson hopes to return to the sport he loves after being acquitted of sexual assault charges, the football player's family said on Saturday.

"I think he plans on staying here and playing football. That's why he came. You know, so I'm hoping things get back to normal real quick," Johnson's uncle, Lane Johnson, told ABC's Good Morning America.

Johnson was suspended and eventually kicked off the team as the case progressed, but school officials said he can now appeal to be reinstated.

Despite the prosecutions' attempts to prove Johnson, 20, of Eugene, Ore., had raped a classmate and former acquaintance last February after she invited him over to watch a movie, evidence showed Johnson had consensual sex with the 21-year-old alleged victim.

Prosecutors said a medical exam revealed bruises on the accuser's body, and even played a recording of Johnson's unnamed victim alleging she was a victim of sexual assault after her night with Johnson.

"He just started pulling my body into his just again and again and again," she is heard saying. "It hurt so bad."

But the defense countered her claim with text messages the alleged victim sent to a friend, writing "I don't think he did anything wrong."

 

"We had consensual sex and I would never do that to anyone," Johnson testified on Thursday.

If Jordan wants to return to the Grizzlies, he would have to appeal, and school officials said the athletic conduct team would make the final ruling.

"Jordan will need to indicate that that's his desire, to return to the team," Montana University President Royce Engstrom told the Billings Gazette. "Then the athletic conduct team will listen to that and make a decision. And we'll attend to that as quickly as we can, if that's what Jordan wishes."

The case unfolded amid broad federal scrutiny of the Missoula Police Department, Missoula County District Attorney's Office and University of Montana's handling of sexual assault cases.

The U.S. Department of Justice announced in May a probe into the number of reports of sexual assaults in Missoula. During a three-year period, there were 80 reports of sexual assaults, of which 11 were at the university.

According to the DOJ, the purpose of its investigation was to determine whether the university and law enforcement agencies acted properly, adequately and fairly to protect the safety of women.

The school announced in May the NCAA had been investigating its athletic programs for undisclosed reasons.

The U.S. Department of Education, which also was looking into reports of harassment and assault allegations on campus, said last month that it had closed its discrimination complaint because the allegations were being addressed by the Department of Justice investigation.

Police and university officials have been eager to cooperate with the investigations, but Missoula County Attorney Fred Van Valkenberg opposed the investigations when they were launched last year when he denied any mishandling of sexual assault reports.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Friday
Apr132012

Illinois Man Acquitted in 50-Year-Old Rape Case, Faces Murder Charge

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A man who was accused of raping his half-sister 50 years ago was found not guilty Thursday by a judge in DeKalb County, Ill., who said prosecutors "failed to meet their burden."

The sexual abuse allegation against Jack McCullough, 72, was revealed when police contacted his half-sister during a cold case investigation into the 1957 murder of 7-year-old Maria Ridulph.  McCullough has pleaded not guilty in that case and will be tried at a later date.

"I believe that based on what the law requires in terms of the kinds of proof in these cases, there wasn't enough [evidence]," McCullough's public defender, Regina Harris, told ABC News, speaking about the rape case.  "[The judge] didn't say she didn't believe the victim, she didn't say she wasn't credible. There just wasn't enough to support it under the law that applied."

The alleged victim testified at McCullough's trial and recounted the horror of the day in 1962 when at age 14, she asked for a ride in a convertible she said her half-brother was driving.  He gave her a ride to his residence, where she said he turned on her.

"He told me to get on the bed.  He took my lower clothes off and he raped me," the woman told the court, according to ABC News affiliate WLS-TV.

Three roommates walked in and McCullough offered them a turn to assault her, the victim said.  Two of the three men did, according to her testimony.

Although the statute of limitations for rape was three years in Illinois at the time, Harris said, McCullough was able to be prosecuted since he left the state in 1962 and was no longer a resident of the state.

McCullough had faced between one year and life in prison if he had been found guilty.

The 72-year-old was arrested in Seattle last July after police uncovered new evidence in the cold case murder of Ridulph.

When Ridulph first went missing on Dec. 3, 1957, police received an anonymous phone call days later that John Tessier, McCullough's birthname, matched the description of a man seen talking to her.

Tessier changed his last name to McCullough after his mother died in 1994 to honor her maiden name, Harris said.

When police questioned him, he said he had taken a train from Rockford, Ill., about 40 miles from Sycamore, to Chicago, where he received a physical exam and psychological tests to determine his eligibility for military service.

Nearly five months later, Ridulph's bones were found about 120 miles from where she vanished.

McCullough left the state soon after the murder and joined the Air Force.  He later transferred to the Army and then worked as a policeman.

Decades later, new leads emerged, including an unstamped train ticket McCullough's ex-girlfriend found behind a picture frame.  According to an affidavit, the ticket had a government stamp, indicating it was issued to the government, a common practice at the time when distributing tickets to military recruits.

Under a new cloud of suspicion, McCullough admitted he had never taken a train to Chicago, and said his stepfather drove him there and he then hitched a ride back to Rockford where he called his stepfather to pick him up.

In a courthouse interview last year, McCullough maintained his innocence and alibi.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jan062012

Can Casey Anthony Find Redemption?

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Casey Anthony's sudden reemergence via an online video journal, in which she speaks of the optimism she feels about her future, has sparked controversy across the web and left many wondering if it's possible for the 25-year-old acquitted of killing her daughter to find redemption.

In the black and white video diary posted to YouTube on Thursday, Anthony, sporting a new blonde bob and thick-framed glasses, spoke about her life in hiding, her new pet dog, buying a computer and her excitement for her future.

Late Thursday, a second clip emerged, reportedly from the same user that posted the first clip, featuring a stream of never-before-seen photographs of Anthony supposedly taken while she has been in hiding.

"Casey Anthony is in hiding.  These are photos that Casey gave to her 'friends' online," the text accompanying the video from user ameliathenbrooks1 states.

"[The first clip] is almost like a therapy session, in a lot of ways.  'I am feeling better … got a dog, love my dog.'  This was really her attempt at catharsis," Howard Bragman, a veteran Hollywood publicist, told ABC News.

The video, in which she states it is Oct. 13, is the first time the public has heard Anthony speak since a Florida jury found her not guilty of murdering her two-year-old daughter Caylee.  Anthony's highly publicized trial and July acquittal gripped the nation and left millions of people feeling that the Orlando, Fla. mother got away with murder.

"I'm extremely excited that I'll be able to keep a video log, take some pictures and have something that I can finally call mine," Anthony says in the video.  "I know it's going to be a while since I leave, I'll be here for many, many months more -- even if I'm only here for six months, even if I get off probation early."

Not once in the clip does Anthony mention her dead daughter Caylee.

The whereabouts of where the video was shot is unclear, although it is known that she is currently serving one year of probation in Florida for a check fraud conviction.

Bragman, who is now vice-chairman of Reputation.com, an online service that helps people downplay harsh things that have been written about them on the Internet, says, "If this was her attempt to tell her own story for public consumption, she did it badly.  If something bad about you is online, there is not statute -- it's like herpes.  It's something you have to live with for the rest of your life."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jan052012

Restyled Casey Anthony Makes Video Debut

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- A restyled Casey Anthony has made a public debut, speaking publicly for the first time since being released from jail in a video diary.

"The good thing is things are starting to look up and things are starting to change in a good way.  Let's just hope they stay, that things stay good and that they only get better," she says before adding with a whisper, "They'll only get better."

ABC News confirmed from a source close to Anthony that the video was genuine.

In the Oct. 13 video, Anthony, 25, sports a bleached blonde bob that is dramatically different from the long, dark hair she often wore in a ponytail during her sensational murder trial which ended in her acquittal.  She also wears dark-rimmed glasses and a white tank top and sits in what appears to be a leather office chair in a wood-paneled den or office with photos on the wall.

"There really hasn't been that much going on except now for this and, you know, I'm extremely excited," Anthony says.  "I'm extremely excited that I'll be able to Skype and obviously keep a video log, take some pictures and then I have something that I can finally call mine."

Anthony was acquitted last July of murder in the death of her daughter, Caylee, but was convicted on four counts of lying to law enforcement for claiming that 2-year-old Caylee had been kidnapped by a babysitter.  She is currently serving one year of probation in Florida for a check fraud conviction.

After being released from jail, Anthony went into hiding amid death threats from people who were shocked that she was not convicted of killing her daughter.

In the video, Anthony alternates between seeming relaxed and happy with being pensive and serious.  She expresses excitement with her new video blog.

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"This has just been such a blessing in so many ways and now I, in some ways, have someone to talk to when I'm by myself so I'm not bothering the poor dog who I've adopted and I love and he's as much my dog as any of the other pets I've ever had," she says.

Anthony does not mention her daughter or her parents during the video blog.  She is estranged from her parents who made it clear that she cannot come home after Anthony's lawyer accused her father of molesting her as a child and helping to dispose of Caylee's body.

Anthony must stay in Florida as she serves out her year-long probation and checks in monthly with a probation officer.  There is a possibility that she could get off probation early, but she says in the video, "It's going to be a while [before] I leave."

After speaking on and off for just over four minutes, Anthony signs off, but not before suggesting that there will be more to come from her.

"So, this is the end of my first video log.  I'll probably do another one later…maybe I'll bring the dog, who knows?" Anthony says.  "But this is again the first of many and I'm looking forward to this.  It's going to be scary because I hate being on camera, but, I don't know, I need to conquer that fear at some point…this is a good start.  So, here's hoping.  It's the end of the first, just the beginning."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Dec062011

Amanda Knox Teams with Lawyer to Broker Book Deal

Oli Scarff/Getty Images(SEATTLE) -- Amanda Knox has hired a well-known attorney to represent her in inking a book deal to tell her side of her story after she was acquitted of the murder of her roommate in Perugia, Italy.

Knox, who along with her one-time boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito was convicted in 2007 of the murder of her then-roommate Meredith Kercher, has signed a deal with lawyer Robert Barnet.  The Washington, D.C.-based attorney will represent Knox while she discusses opportunities for book deals with publishers, according to Knox family spokesman Dave Marriott.

Barnet is one of the biggest names known as far as representing well-known media figures in the publishing world.  He has previously brokered deals for Presidents Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Sarah Palin.

The Knox family spent over $1 million on attorneys, travel and the costs of living in Perugia to be near their daughter during her murder trials, her father Curt Knox told ABC News in 2009.  Criminal defense attorney Gerald Lefcourt has estimated that her family may have spent more on Knox’s appeal than during the first two years leading to her conviction.

Although Knox was released in October from the Italian prison where she served four years of a 26-year sentence, the 24-year-old still owes 2,000 Euros, or $29,000, for defamation after accusing bar owner Patrick Lumumba of Kercher’s murder.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Nov162011

Casey Anthony Case to Become Movie

Red Huber-Pool/Getty Images(ORLANDO, Fla.) -- The book by one of the attorneys who prosecuted Casey Anthony is now in the works to be adapted into a TV movie.

The movie will be based on the new book Imperfect Justice, Prosecuting Casey Anthony by retired Florida prosecutor Jeff Ashton, according to Fox Television Studios spokeswoman Leslie Oren, who said that the studio has optioned the book.

Oren said that the film is being developed for the Lifetime cable network, but is in its early stages.  Lifetime has yet to give the green light to the project.

Ashton spent three years preparing for the prosecution of 25-year-old Anthony, who was accused of killing her two-year-old daughter Caylee in 2008.  The prosecution asked for the death penalty in the case, but Anthony was eventually acquitted of the murder charge.

In the book, Ashton gives insider information into the investigation, the criminal trial and eventual not guilty verdict that captured the attention of the nation.  The prosecutor feels that Anthony got away with murder, according to People magazine, and in the book takes jabs at Anthony’s defense attorneys and jurors.

“I have seen my share of liars, but never one quite like this,” Ashton writes in the book, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Oct072011

Two Battered Wives, Two Confessed Murders, Two Women Now Free

Jeffrey Hamilton/Digital Vision/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Two women, who in separate cases confessed to killing their husbands and made headlines for their sensational murder trials, were freed just one day apart after they each employed a controversial and difficult defense, claiming that years of abuse led them to murder.

Barbara Sheehan, a New York City school secretary, who admitted shooting her police officer husband 11 times with two of his own pistols, was acquitted of murder Thursday, after claiming she had been abused for years and feared for her life on the morning of Feb. 18, 2008.

On Friday, Gaile Owens of Memphis walked out of the Tennessee prison cell where she's been held since being convicted in 1985 of hiring a stranger to kill her husband. After 26 years of appeals from death row, Owens was paroled when new evidence that she had been the victim of sustained domestic abuse was revealed.

Both cases were critical tests of the so-called battered-woman defense, in which attorneys argue that a history of abuse led their clients to kill.

Legal experts say the battered-woman defense is a tough case to make for attorneys.

"It's not easy. A battered-woman defense is always an uphill climb," defense attorney Gloria Allred, who didn't represent either woman, told ABC News. "There are a lot of questions her lawyers are going to need to answer for the jury. Why didn't she report the abuse? Did she tell anyone?"

Allred said juries are often unsympathetic to women they believe should have left their husbands sooner, rather than turn to murder later.

Owens, whose death penalty conviction was reduced to life in prison last year, was granted parole last week, and she walked free Friday. At her 1985 trial, she did not talk about being physically and sexually abused by her husband, claiming later she didn't want to expose her young sons to the truth about their father.

On Thursday, a jury acquitted Barbara Sheehan of murder, but convicted of her of illegal possession of a firearm.

"There's no joy today," Sheehan's attorney Michael Dowd told reporters outside the courthouse. "The only thing that can bring joy to this family would be to bring them back 17 years before the first blow was struck."

Sheehan admitted to shooting her husband after a fight in which he threatened her if she did not accompany him on a trip to Florida. Sheehan claimed she had been seriously beaten on a trip a few months earlier to Jamaica and was reluctant to leave her home.

Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said neither side could claim victory and called on battered woman to go to authorities when they are first abused.

In 2010, a New York woman accused of murdering her husband successfully used the battered woman defense and was acquitted. Shanique Simmons had been routinely abused by her husband and was even raped, she testified. Simmons stabbed her unarmed husband in the hallway of their Bronx apartment, but claimed self defense.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Oct072011

Amanda Knox Trying to Break Habit of Speaking Italian

Kevin Casey/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Amanda Knox is in seclusion as she readjusts to life outside of an Italian prison, including getting used to speaking English again.

Knox's father, Curt Knox, told ABC's Good Morning America Thursday that his daughter out of habit occasionally slips back into Italian, a language she became fluent in during her four years in Capanne prison outside of Perugia while she battled charges that she murdered her roommate.

"It has become really almost her first language since she's been in prison so long, but she seems to be moving to English," Curt Knox said with a chuckle.  He said she got "a kick" out of having to be reminded to speak English at her airport news conference Tuesday night.

Curt Knox indicated that he had been worried about possible trauma his daughter suffered during her long incarceration, but seemed relieved so far.

"She's actually doing a lot better than I anticipated.  She's seems to just almost look like she hasn't missed a beat with the family and that's been really great to see," he said.

Curt Knox said they had not yet decided on seeking counseling for Amanda.

"We're going to take it on a day-by-day basis and see how she continues to react and kind of blend back in to just being a regular person outside of prison.  It's a big concern of mine if there's any traumatic circumstances that arise later on," he said.

The stress of those last days in prison were obvious as Knox became tense, broke out in hives, lost weight and nearly collapsed when the not guilty verdict was announced.

Amanda Knox had told her family that one thing she was looking forward to was lying in the grass in the back yard of her Seattle home.  She hasn't laid down in that grass yet because she is staying outside of Seattle, but she has laid down in the grass, her father said.

"She has and it's been very nice to watch her do it," he said.  "It's the little things that she hasn't had a chance to do in the last four years that really make it worth while and really kind of get her reconnected again."

One of the things that she has enjoyed since returning to the U.S. has been playing with her twin cousins who were only 1-year-old when Knox went to prison.  She's also been "just sitting down and talking with friends, kind of catching up."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Oct042011

Caught on Camera: Amanda Knox Attorney Reacts to Verdict

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- As Amanda Knox’s knees buckled and tears streamed down her face when the judge announced to a stunned Italian courtroom and to the world that the 24-year-old had been acquitted of murder, one of her attorneys watched and cheered from thousands of miles away.

Theodore “Ted” Simon watched the verdict come down Monday from a TV screen in New York City.

He watched in silence, making small notes, as the judge first announced that Knox had been found guilty of slander and would have to pay a fine.  But when the judge said, “Both defendants have been acquitted by the charges A, B, C,” referring to the murder charges, Simon let out a loud, “YES!” and fist-pumped the air.

“Thank God,” he said, then returned to his laptop.

In an interview with ABC's Nightline, Simon said the verdict ”absolutely makes clear” that Knox wasn’t responsible for the death of her British roommate, Meredith Kercher, and explained his reaction.

“My reaction was I was extremely appreciative, grateful and certainly thankful,” he said.  ”Not only for Amanda but for her family because this was a monumental wrongful conviction, and it finally was corrected.”

Simon went on to say that the next step for Knox and her family is to undergo “regrouping and serious reflection.”  Knox is expected to return home to Seattle immediately.

“[They will] start re-evaluating their lives and seeing things much differently without the horrific weight that has been burdening them for so long,” Simon said.  “This has been a four-year nightmarish marathon that no child, or parent should ever have to endure.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Jul052011

Casey Anthony Verdict: Family Gets Death Threats in Wake of Acquittal

Hand Out/ABC News(ORLANDO, Fla.) -- Members of Casey Anthony's family received death threats Tuesday after the Florida woman was acquitted of murder in the death of her daughter, 2-year-old Caylee.

Mark Lippman, the attorney for George and Cindy Anthony, Casey Anthony's parents, told ABC News that the family has received death threats. Authorities are reportedly investigating the threats. No additional details were immediately available.

The verdict provoked shock and outrage, and the backlash was swift.

Spectators outside the courtroom comforted each other and cried, and one man remarking that Casey Anthony should leave town because she's not welcome in Orlando.

Law enforcement officials roped off a door where Cindy and George Anthony were expected to make their exit from the court, and bystanders chanted "Appeal! Appeal!" and "justice for Caylee."

One woman said, "[The verdict] is going to make millions of people think they can get away with killing their child. ...That isn't a good depiction of what our justice system is like or should be."

Jurors in the explosive murder trial headed into deliberations with plenty of forensic evidence and expert testimony to pore over. They also had seen a lot of family drama play out on the witness stand, including allegations by the defense team that Casey Anthony's father, George, and brother, Lee, had sexually molested her.

It also appeared that Cindy Anthony perjured herself in testimony about computer searches for the term "chloroform," and it was revealed that Casey Anthony told elaborate lies -- not just about the circumstances surrounding her daughter's disappearance, but about other aspects of her life as well.

A statement released Tuesday by Lippman on behalf of George, Cindy and Lee Anthony seems to demonstrate the family's conflict:

"While the family may never know what has happened to Caylee Marie Anthony, they now have closure for this chapter of their life," the statement reads.  "They will now begin the long process of rebuilding their lives. Despite the baseless defense chosen by Casey Anthony, the family believes that the Jury made a fair decision based on the evidence presented, the testimony presented, the scientific information presented and the rules that were given to them by the Honorable Judge Perry to guide them. The family hopes that they will be given the time by the media to reflect on this verdict and decide the best way to move forward privately."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio