A 27-year-old man convicted of sexually assaulting a 12-year-old with a weapon has won a new trial — because the girl’s friend testified the sex was consensual.
The appeal court decision, -- released yesterday -- means Lealand Rupert Strong won’t have to serve the four-year federal jail term to which he was sentenced earlier.
The girl originally testified that in June 2004, Strong threatened her with a sharp object to force her to have sex with him at the home where she was babysitting. Strong, however, testified the two were chatting online while he was babysitting, and that he invited her to the home, where they had consensual sex. The girl said she told Strong she was about to turn 13; he said the girl told him she was 15 or 16. He said she drank alcohol at the house; she denied that.
Strong claimed the sharp object was a Swiss army knife in his pocket that he put onto the coffee table, and said he didn’t threaten her with it.
One of the girl’s friends testified that the girl told her she agreed to have sex with Strong, and that they drank together at the house. The trial judge didn’t mention that in his decision to convict Strong.
In his decision, Chief Justice Michael MacDonald said the friend’s evidence made the victim’s credibility questionable.
“It is not apparent how (her) evidence affected the judge’s assessment of … credibility. Therefore, this problem can only be resolved by a new trial,” MacDonald wrote.