Associate Justice Gary Nickerson acquitted Bryant K. Brown on charges that he raped and assaulted an Island woman Tuesday, after a bench trial in Dukes County Superior Court.
Mr. Brown, 33, of Dorchester, walked out of court a free man. He had been held on bail at the Dukes County Jail since his arrest on May 29, 2012.
“I’m glad my client can move on with his life,” defense attorney Anthony Ellison of Boston said outside the courtroom, shortly after the verdict was announced. “I think it is the right verdict. The judge paid attention to every witness and looked at every exhibit.”
Judge Nickerson was the sole factfinder in the case, after Mr. Brown waived his right to a jury trial, and he decided the verdict.
The judge said it was the conflicting evidence presented at trial that left him with a reasonable doubt.
“It is the gross inconsistencies that developed over the course of the investigation, and on the witness stand, that lead me to a verdict of not guilty,” Judge Nickerson said from the bench.
The woman who made the allegations, a 29-year-old Oak Bluffs resident, went with Mr. Brown and his girlfriend to a cottage at the Menemsha Inn, after a night of drinking at several Oak Bluffs bars. She told police that Mr. Brown assaulted her while his girlfriend was passed out.
In his closing argument, Mr. Ellison hammered at the credibility of the accuser, who testified at length earlier in the trial. She also appeared briefly as a rebuttal witness on Tuesday.
“She gave so many different versions of what happened,” Mr. Ellison said in court. “The physical evidence just doesn’t bear her out. Her story falls apart. If the story keeps changing, and she can’t get the story straight, it did not happen.”
Cape and Islands assistant district attorney Laura Marshard also focused on the testimony of the accuser, in her closing argument. She called her a remarkable young woman, who underwent brain surgery to correct frequent epileptic seizures two months before the incident.
“She has been consistent in all of her testimony, despite rigorous cross-examination,” Ms. Marshard said. “He repeatedly used his physical size and force to assault her.”
Mr. Ellison took the unusual step of putting his client on the witness stand Tuesday morning to testify in his own defense. Under oath, he told a different story.
Mr. Brown denied touching the accuser in any inappropriate way. He said he kicked the accuser out of the cottage, after he caught her trying to steal a diamond necklace valued at $2,200.
Mr. Brown was originally indicted by a Dukes County grand jury on 13 separate charges. On Tuesday, Judge Nickerson acquitted him of two charges of rape, three charges of assault to rape, a charge of indecent assault, and a charge of threat to commit a crime.
Before the trial the judge dismissed five charges related to the disability of the accuser, who suffered from epilepsy. During the trial, he issued a directed verdict on one of the original rape charges. He said the evidence, even when taken in a light most favorable to the prosecution, did not support that charge.
Ms. Marshard declined comment after the trial.
Mr. Brown has a violent criminal record that includes a conviction for assault with a dangerous weapon, and assault to kill. He served a three to four year sentence in state prison for those crimes.
After learning of his criminal record, police executed a careful plan involving six officers to make the arrest last May.
Chilmark, West Tisbury, Aquinnah, and State Police, all out of sight, monitored the inn. Police stopped Mr. Brown’s vehicle at the end of Menemsha Inn Road, surrounded his vehicle, and arrested him.
Mr. Ellison referred to the circumstances of the arrest and the police investigation in his closing arguments.
“The officers just took her word and ran with it,” Mr. Ellison said.
Judge Nickerson took exception to the criticism of police, just before issuing the verdict.
“I see nothing inappropriate on the part of the police,” Judge Nickerson said. “I cast no stones in their direction, whatsoever.”
Outside the court, Mr. Ellison conceded he may have overstated the point in the heat of his closing argument.
“I actually agree with the judge,” Mr. Elllison said. “In fact, it was the police investigation that lead to the verdict.”