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Judge acquits Camden Hills teen of sexual assault

By Stephen Betts | Jan 10, 2020

Rockland — A judge acquitted a 16-year-old young man from Hope Thursday evening, who had been charged with sexually assaulting a young woman in the parking lot of Camden Hills Regional High School.

Judge Susan Oram deliberated for 20 minutes before returning her ruling in the Knox County Court. The ruling came after a day-long trial at which both the young woman and young man testified.

The Camden Hills student from Hope had been charged with gross sexual assault and unlawful sexual touching.

The incident occurred May 20, 2019, in the young woman's car in a parking lot after school. Both were students at the school.

"We were surprised that the State even brought these charges in the first place," defense attorney Laura Shaw said after the verdict. "They were originally declined by the DA’s office as having no merit, and it wasn’t until the alleged victim’s family hired an attorney that the DA’s office even agreed to bring charges. It is completely clear that my client did nothing wrong and we are so happy that his innocence has finally been proven."

Shaw had made that contention during her opening arguments at the Jan. 9 trial and was challenged by District Attorney Natasha Irving.

The prosecutor said the young woman originally said she would not be able to handle testifying at a trial but later said she could. Irving said that the juvenile prosecutor had originally declined to pursue criminal charges because the victim did not want to testify. Once she agreed, Irving reviewed the case and filed charges.

Irving said after the verdict that she would prosecute the same type of case 1,000 times.

The woman testified Thursday that she told the young man to stop 10 or more times but that he continued to sexually assault her.

The two had been friends, but she said they were not romantic partners.

The woman left the car and went into the school where she was distraught. School officials testified to her being distraught when she came into the school and she reported being assaulted.

Defense attorney Laura Shaw said the woman tried to keep the relationship with her client secret because she had a boyfriend. Shaw pointed out that when the woman left her car, her client sent the woman a text asking where she was and said he did not know why she left.

The young man testified that while she said they shouldn't do anything sexual because she had a boyfriend, her body language said otherwise. He said she never told him to stop.

A separate civil court case related to the incident remains before the court.

A state judge heard testimony Dec. 20 on an appeal by the mother of the student, challenging his eight-day suspension imposed by the school. The mother claims the school did not follow proper procedures and denied her son his constitutional rights.

Shaw is also representing the mother in the case.

Justice Bruce Mallonee took the matter under advisement. A decision is not expected for at least another six weeks.

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