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Dykes acquitted of all charges

Meghanne Downes | Tuesday, September 16, 2003

A jury acquitted former Notre Dame football player Donald Dykes of rape, conspiracy to commit rape and sexual battery early Tuesday morning.

The jury of seven men and five women deliberated for 12 hours and returned a verdict at 12:15 a.m., following closing arguments that focused on the credibility of the alleged victim’s testimony.

Dykes, along with former Notre Dame football players Lorenzo Crawford, Justin Smith and Abram Elam, were accused of sexually assaulting and gang raping a former student. The four former players maintain the woman consented to the sexual acts.

Special prosecutor Maureen Devlin said Dykes participated in the gang rape and sexual assault of the woman and he and the other former players knew what they were doing.

“[The victim] doesn’t have a motive to lie … [She] made some poor judgment choices and put herself in a position she couldn’t get out of,” Devlin said.

On cross-examination earlier in the week, defense attorney William Stanley asked the victim why she remained at the house and removed her jeans to sleep in the same bed with Justin Smith.

Stanley continued to discredit the woman’s story in his closing argument. He emphasized that the woman waited to report the incident and that a Memorial Hospital emergency room doctor, Michael Blakesley, did not find anything consistent with rape when he did examine the woman six days after the alleged incident.

“This woman is no dummy,” Stanley said. “She’s extremely intelligent. She knew exactly what she was doing.”

Stanley said the woman, who originally consented to the sex acts, decided to tell Notre Dame and law enforcement authorities she was raped because she did not want to be held accountable for her actions under Notre Dame’s disciplinary system. Notre Dame’s policy states that if an individual makes a rape allegation, the victim will not be held accountable under its disciplinary process. Students can otherwise be expelled for engaging in sexual intercourse outside of marriage.

The four former players were expelled from the University in spring 2002.

University spokesman Matt Storin declined to comment on the verdict.

“Notre Dame fulfilled its responsibilities on this case through its own disciplinary process, which is quite distinct from a criminal case and rendered a judgment based on what we consider to be best for the welfare of our students based on our codes for proper sexual behavior,” Storin said.

The two remaining rape trials will begin later this fall. Last month, a jury convicted Elam of sexual battery and acquitted him of conspiracy to commit rape and criminal deviate conduct. In contrast to Dykes’ trial, all of the former players testified at Elam’s trial and said the woman told Elam on multiple occasions, “No, you have a girlfriend.” The former players did not state that the woman told anyone else”No.”