July 26, 2012

By TIM TALLEY | Associated Press

 

A suspended Okla­homa State basketball player broke down in tears as he was convicted on charges that accused him of sexually assaulting two women, then turned to jurors and yelled “I didn’t do it.”

Darrell Williams was convicted July 23 of two counts of rape by instrumentation and one count of sexual battery, though the jury acquitted him on two other counts of rape by instrumentation. Prosecu­tors accused the 22-year-old of groping the women and reaching inside their pants without their consent at a party in December 2010.

Williams, whose attorneys raised the possibility that he could have been misidentified, cried as the verdicts were read, saying “Oh my Jesus God” as he bent over and banged his hands on the defense table. Several of his teammates left the packed courtroom without commenting, and an inconsolable female relative was helped out as Williams was taken away by sheriff's deputies.

Jurors, who deliberated for about eight hours, recommended that he be sentenced to a year in prison for each of the two rape by instrumentation counts. His formal sentencing is set for Aug. 24.

With little physical evidence to bolster prosecutors’ case, Assistant District Attorney Jill Tontz had to rely on testimony from the two women.

“ ‘No’ means just that: It means ‘no,’ ” Tontz said during closing arguments. “These girls felt dehumanized, embarrassed.”

Both women testified during the trial and said they identified Williams as their attacker after police showed them a photo of the Cowboys basketball team. One woman said Williams held her against her will and dragged her in a yard. She said the attack happened in the basement of the house and that no one came to her aid.

“It made me feel violated and sick to my stomach,” she testified.

After the verdicts, Tontz said the women “waited 16 months to tell a jury what Darrell Williams did to them. This verdict represents justice.”

Defense attorneys had tried to cast doubt that Williams was the perpetrator. Witnesses testified that several players at the party wore similar Oklahoma State warm-up suits, and his attorneys claimed that could have led to a misidentification.

Defense attorney Cheryl Ramsey referred to the case as a “he said, she said situation.” She noted during closing arguments that no one heard anyone scream at the party, saw any struggles or reported anything inappropriate. Neither of the women suffered any cuts or scratches, and no clothing was torn after the alleged incident.

After the verdict, Ramsey said she was “very disappointed” with the outcome. She had asked the judge to release Williams pending his sentencing, but the judge denied the request, noting Williams’ sudden outburst as the verdicts were read.

The outburst prompted Tontz to quickly move to the other side of the prosecutors’ table and cry as she clutched a sheriff’s deputy. The prosecutor later said she felt intimidated.

Williams has long denied the allegations, and did so in a recorded interview with police that attorneys played at the trial last week.

“I don’t know what happened in the basement,” Williams said on the audio recording. “I was probably misidentified.”

Oklahoma State basketball coach Travis Ford testified on Williams' behalf Wednesday July 25, saying he believed the young man was innocent. The coach declined comment after the verdicts Monday.

Williams was suspended from the team in February 2011. Before that, he led the team in rebounding and averaged 7.1 points per game.

Category: Sports

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