Jury finds teen not guilty of rape
Sixteen-year-old Aaron Weaver and his defense attorney Robert Cronin happily hugged after the jury delivered a verdict of not guilty on all counts Friday.
“The jury believed the Commonwealth was incapable of proving my client guilty beyond a reasonable doubt,” Cronin said.
While Weaver looked awestruck, Assistant District Attorney Melissa Kalaus appeared visibly distraught when the verdict was rendered. After the proceeding, she quickly left the courtroom and could not be reached for comment.
Weaver was accused of raping a minor victim in the announcer’s tower at the soccer field near the former Sheridan Elementary School on March 24. The jury deliberated for one hour and 45 minutes on charges of rape by forcible compulsion, involuntary deviant sexual intercourse by forcible compulsion, sexual assault and indecent assault.
“The jury took the appropriate amount of time and consideration in reaching a verdict and I’m respectful of the verdict they’ve been able to reach,” Cronin said.
Several pieces of physical evidence, although circumstantial, linked Weaver to the alleged rape. A condom wrapper with his fingerprint on it was recovered from the scene of the incident. Several officers combed the area but no condom ever was found, according to testimony.
“Why no condom? The defendant obviously took it with him … because he didn’t want to leave the physical evidence behind,” Kalaus argued during closing statements.
Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Nancy Steil testified that the injuries she observed on the victim were “consistent with what the victim told me happened,” but she couldn’t conclusively say that the injuries were caused by rape.
“If this man was using force – and by man I mean 15-year-old boy at the time – then why aren’t there more fissures?” Cronin argued.
“The defense is playing into the stereotypical rape myth that if this happened she should be horribly injured,” Kalaus told the jury.
During closing statements, Cronin pointed to inconsistencies in witness’ statements, especially the victim’s. The victim gave differing accounts of the order of events, how the meet-up at the soccer field was arranged and the number of people in the tower where the alleged rape occurred, Cronin said.
“The only people who tell the same thing the same way every time are actors, because it’s scripted,” Kalaus said.
The victim was crying during direct examination but “those tears dried up pretty fast” during cross examination, Cronin said.
“Why? Because someone was catching her in those inconsistent statements,” Cronin said.
The defense maintained the sex was consensual.
Weaver has a prior criminal record, but it was sealed because he is a juvenile. After his charges were dismissed Friday, Weaver was released from Lycoming County Prison but ordered to appear before his juvenile probation officer later that afternoon.