Soldier found not guilty of rape; defense alleges misdeeds
April 22, 2009
The following correction to this story was posted April 23: An April 22 story about a soldier acquitted of charges that he forcibly sodomized a female airman at Camp Darby omitted some words from a sentence. The sentence should have been: The lead prosecutor, Capt. Autumn Veatch, dismissed that theory in her arguments, telling jurors they could only find Jahalal not guilty if they had a reasonable doubt and they should not rely on a theory that was “fanciful or ingenious.”
VICENZA, Italy — A soldier charged with forcibly sodomizing a female airman at Camp Darby was found not guilty by a military jury in a general court-martial last week.
Sgt. Vince Jahalal of the 14th Transportation Company and the airman had consensual sex several times in the summer of 2008, according to testimony. But the airman lodged a restricted report on June 20, saying Jahalal had raped her the night before in his barracks room. She then decided to file an unrestricted report more than a month later, which opened the case to military investigators.
The prosecution’s case centered on Jahalal’s DNA found in the alleged victim and her testimony.
But the defense argued that the testimony in the case was conflicting and sometimes inconsistent. They also argued that the doctor who conducted the exam after the accused filed the restricted report made several mistakes.
Following the verdict, Jahalal’s attorneys said they believe there are problems with the system used to collect evidence and that errors uncovered during the trial were ignored by law enforcement officials and the prosecution.
Capt. Evan Seamone, Jahalal’s lead defense attorney, told jurors during his closing arguments that all the mistakes demonstrated "how incomplete, how unreliable … this whole case is."
Seamone and Capt. Oren Gleich, a second defense attorney, questioned essentially every aspect of the prosecution’s case in the trial, which lasted four days.
A series of expert witnesses on each side painted differing pictures of the evidence collected. Seamone theorized and an expert witness testified it was possible that some of Jahalal’s DNA could have been transferred to her in a variety of ways.
The lead prosecutor, Capt. Autumn Veatch, dismissed that theory in her arguments, telling jurors they could only find Jahalal not guilty if they had a reasonable doubt and they should not rely on a theory that was “fanciful or ingenious.” She urged jurors to disregard the "smoke and mirrors used by the defense to explain away the evidence most damaging to the accused."