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Everson trial: Judge to consider lesser charge

[ 3 ] January 13, 2011 |

When the jury in the Cedric Everson second-degree sexual abuse trial reconvenes Tuesday morning, the matter may already be decided.

Judge Paul Miller will decide over the long weekend whether to grant Iowa City defense attorney Leon Spies’ request to acquit his client after Spies offered a thorough argument as to why the state’s evidence is insufficient to find his client guilty of second-degree sexual abuse.

Everson, 21, a former University of Iowa football player, is on trial for allegedly sexually assaulting a former UI student athlete in an unoccupied Hillcrest dorm room on Oct. 14, 2007, while she was asleep or passed out. In order to be found guilty of second-degree sexual abuse, jurors must find Everson committed a sex act with the woman and that it was against her will or while she was somehow incapacitated and that he was aided and abetted in that act by his former teammate, roommate and codefendant Abeberell Satterfield.

Spies told Miller Thursday morning those criteria have not been met.

“The evidence is insufficient to present the matter to the jury,” he said.

The state rested its case after calling its final witness on Wednesday and the jury was not present for Thursday’s proceedings. Calling for an acquittal is a common tactic taken by defense attorneys and Spies said attorneys often make “half-hearted” requests for acquittal.

“This is one of very few instances, your honor, where the court has an earnest obligation to grant a judgment of acquittal based on the evidence,” Spies said.

Spies has not called a single witness in the case, but has relied on cross-examination of state witnesses to cast doubt on the state’s claims about the events of Oct. 13 and 14, 2007. Through testimony from the alleged victim, her roommate and friends and several football players, the state has argued that on Oct. 13, 2007, the woman got intoxicated in her room and at a house party and later encountered Satterfield and Jevon Pugh. The woman testified the men took her to an unoccupied dorm room where Satterfield sexually assaulted her.

The woman testified on Tuesday she later learned Everson had sex with her, as well.

However, under cross-examination on Wednesday, Satterfield said the woman was acting completely normal when he encountered her and was the aggressor in their sexual activity. When Everson came into the room and told Satterfield to get out of bed, Satterfield testified he had no idea what Everson was doing or what his intentions were.

Spies argued that Satterfield’s proximity to the alleged crime or his knowledge of it afterward does not constitute aiding and abetting.

However, Assistant Johnson County Attorney Anne Lahey said there is ample testimony indicating the woman was intoxicated that night. Additionally, Lahey said if Everson was concerned about getting the key to the room back, he could have waited until morning. She also pointed to the fact that before going to the room, Everson grabbed a handful of condoms and told Mike Daniels he intended to do what the woman and Satterfield were doing in the room, as Daniels testified.

Lahey said it was also hard to believe Satterfield had no idea what was going on when Everson came into the room.

“He wants people to believe he had absolutely no idea what happened,” she said. “There is a clear and reasonable inference he clearly knew what was going on.”

Spies, however, said the state could not discredit its own witness, especially one it reached a plea arrangement with. In April 2009, Satterfield agreed to plead guilty to a lesser offense in exchange for testifying for the state.

“The government can’t have its cake and eat it, too,” he said, adding if the state didn’t believe its own witness, there is a “real problem here.”

Though motions for direct judgment are rare, Miller took ample time to consider Spies’ request. Miller also questioned Spies if it would be possible to submit a lesser offense, third-degree sexual abuse, which does not require the element of aiding and abetting, to the jury. Spies said he researched that possibility and said it has happened before. Another possibility is Everson requesting an “all or nothing” approach, which would eliminate any lesser included offenses. However, Spies said both sides of the case must agree to such a change.

Miller said he will consider Spies’ request over the long weekend before proceedings continue Tuesday morning.

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

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