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Elam takes stand in defense of rape accusations

By SCOTT BRODFUEHRER & MEGHANNE DOWNES | Monday, September 1, 2003

SOUTH BEND – Former Notre Dame safety Abram Elam took the stand in his own defense Friday and acknowledged that he fondled his accuser and three of his teammates had sex with her, but maintained that the acts were consensual.

During his testimony, Elam admitted to fondling the woman while she was kissing his former teammate Justin Smith in the basement of his off-campus house on Warrick Street. Smith had invited the woman to his house after they danced with each other at the State Theatre in South Bend during the early morning hours of March 28, 2002.

Elam claimed he had gone to Smith’s house with Lorenzo Crawford after spending the evening at the State Theatre. Elam said he was good friends with Smith and often spent time at his house.

Following the initial incident in the basement, Elam said he went upstairs to Smith’s bedroom to locate a condom.

“I thought [the victim] was feeling for me,” said Elam, who was found guilty Saturday on a charge of sexual battery but not guilty on the more severe charges of sexual deviate conduct and conspiracy to commit rape.

He said that while he was searching for the condom, he heard someone come upstairs and he hid in Smith’s closet so he would not be discovered.

Elam said Smith and the woman entered the room and began to kiss, at which point Elam testified he came out of his hiding place and said he probably touched the woman’s hips and legs. Then, he said the woman asked him if he had a girlfriend and he eventually left the room. He said he then put his ear to the door and later heard someone come to the door, prompting him to hold it closed because he said he did not want the two to know he had been eavesdropping on them.

“I grabbed and held the doorknob, I didn’t hear anyone on the other end. I held it for a couple seconds, I felt a tug … I dashed off to the room across from Justin,” Elam said.

Elam said he later returned to the room and saw Crawford, Smith and the woman engaging in sexual activity.

The woman testified these acts were not consensual, while the football players contended it was.

Elam said he came back into the room wearing his shorts, but removed them while he was in the room. He said Smith eventually got up and may have left the room. At that time, he said he exchanged words with the woman, “to ask her about having sex.” He said the woman refused and again asked, “Don’t you have a girlfriend?”

Thursday, Dykes and Smith testified that the woman specifically said no to Elam’s request, citing the fact that he had a girlfriend.

Elam said Smith and Crawford again began to engage in sexual activity with the woman and he removed his shorts and began to fondle her. He denied, however, the woman’s claim that he put his fingers inside her at any point during the incident.

During cross-examination, special prosecutor Maureen Devlin asked Elam if the woman gave him permission to touch her. Elam responded that the woman neither gave him permission to touch her nor told him not to touch her.

“I don’t approve of the conduct performed that night … I am embarrassed for all that I have lost. I ask God for forgiveness,” Elam said.