Ex-Missouri running back convicted of sex assault
Thursday, September 22, 2011
COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Former Missouri running back and team leader Derrick Washington was convicted Wednesday of sexually assaulting a former tutor who said he attacked her in her sleep.
A Boone County Circuit Court jury deliberated 2 1 /2 hours after a two-day trial before delivering its verdict late Wednesday afternoon. Washington, who faces a possible seven-year prison sentence, hung his head as jurors individually affirmed their decision. Moments later, in a quiet courtroom where only his family and legal team remained, he sobbed uncontrollably while still seated at the defense table.
The tutor and her former roommate testified in June 2010, Washington entered the woman’s bedroom while she slept at her off-campus apartment and fondled her without permission. The roommate, also a former tutor for Missouri athletes, had a consensual sexual relationship with Washington.
Washington, a Kansas City prep star, was Missouri’s leading rusher as a sophomore and junior until he was kicked off the team before his senior year after the accusations surfaced. He did not testify in his own defense, and his lawyers and family members declined comment after the verdict.
Washington’s accuser is a 24-year-old Missouri graduate who spent two semesters as his athletic department tutor before the alleged assault. She was publicly identified in court, but the Associated Press generally does not name alleged victims of sexual assault. The woman moved out-of-state after the incident.
Washington was visiting the ex-tutor’s roommate at the time and acknowledged going into the other woman’s room and initiating the sexual encounter, prosecutors said.
Lauren Gavin, the woman’s roommate, testified earlier Wednesday Washington jokingly made a crude remark about the encounter minutes later but that she dismissed the comment as an attempt to make her jealous.
Gavin acknowledged under cross-examination she did not initially tell campus police about Washington’s alleged actions, both out of a sense of loyalty and because she felt ashamed after speaking to the same two university detectives about an alleged sex assault of her by another Missouri athlete. No charges were filed in that case.
Instead, Gavin said she confided in several friends, including Washington’s teammate, Missouri receiver T. J. Moe, before coming forward in September 2010, after criminal charges were filed against Washington.
“Part of the reason I didn’t say anything in the first place was I felt I had some allegiance to Derrick,” she testified, fighting back tears. “He was my friend too. I lost two friends.”
Washington’s defense attorneys suggested Gavin and the accuser could have concocted the assault out of spite toward Missouri athletes, whom his accuser said created a “horrific” environment with unwanted sexual banter while part of the school’s tutoring program for athletes.
Defense attorneys also argued the accuser’s judgment was clouded after drinking as many as 12 beers earlier that night. The woman testified she had seven drinks but was only slightly drunk.
“There are so many possibilities here about what could have happened,” said defense attorney Chris Slusher.
Assistant prosecutor Andrea Hayes said the woman, who had remained in Columbia and worked for the university after graduation but quickly moved out-of-state after the incident, paid a heavy price for coming forward. Her father was a Springfield native and also a Missouri alumnus with strong emotional ties to the school.
“She had nothing to gain, and everything to lose,” Hayes said “She had to leave a place she loved, where she at one time felt safe.”
Washington had been named a co-captain before the start of the 2010 season. He was allowed to keep his scholarship after the accusations surfaced but soon withdrew from school and moved back home. Even after charges were filed, he anticipated a return to college football, posting his hopes of returning to the sport on his Twitter account.
He also faces two misdemeanor domestic assault charges involving an ex-girlfriend who accused Washington of poking her eyes and choking her during an argument in a case scheduled to go to trial next week. He has pleaded not guilty in that case, as he did to the felony charge.
Washington will return to court Nov. 7 for sentencing before Boone County Circuit Judge Kevin Crane.