RAF LAKENHEATH, England — A panel of nine enlisted members and officers decided Monday to acquit Staff Sgt. Aaron Ellis of one count of rape.

The panel deliberated for almost four hours before returning a not guilty verdict at 6 p.m. The Air Force did not disclose how many panel members voted to acquit Ellis, but six guilty votes were required to convict him.

Ellis, a nine-year Air Force veteran with the 48th Equipment Maintenance Squadron at RAF Lakenheath, was accused of raping a senior airman after a Halloween party in a Thetford residence on Oct. 28, 2007. He was facing up to 30 years of confinement, a dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of all pay and allowances and a demotion to E-1.

The defense attorney, Air Force Capt. Lauren Torczynski, and the prosecuting attorney, Air Force Capt. James Gentry, declined to comment for this story.

The defense argued that Ellis and the alleged victim, who is now a staff sergeant, were both intoxicated when they engaged in sexual activity after the party.

Torczynski also criticized the Air Force’s Office of Special Investigations’ interrogation tactics when its members questioned Ellis. She contended that investigators had already sided with the alleged victim and decided Ellis was guilty before they interviewed him.

Prosecutors tried to convince the panel that Ellis took advantage of the alleged victim while she was intoxicated and unable to resist Ellis’ advances.

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