Former UM Student Found Not Guilty of Rape [YouTube]
A former University of Montana student was found not guilty of rape by a Missoula jury Friday evening.
20 year-old Timothy Schwartz was accused of raping a fellow student in her dorm room on February 16, 2014. Court records indicate that the alleged victim had a party in her room which included alcohol, and when people started leaving, The woman then pretended to fall asleep, but felt 'uneasy' with Schwartz in the room. Schwartz was accused of getting into her bed and raping her.
KGVO News spoke with attorneys on both sides of the case on Saturday morning, since the verdict wasn't returned until just after 7 p.m. Friday night.
Brian Smith, attorney for the defendant, said the charges and the trial were devastating for both sides.
"Any type of charge like this is hard on everyone involved," Smith said."We're just really happy that the system worked, we're happy for Tim, but charges like this do a lot of damage, and we'll never be able to get that back."
Both attorneys said the evidence favored their side. Smith said the stories from other witnesses in the case just didn't add up.
"Witnesses from the dorm rooms really didn't have the same story," he said. "I think at the end, the jury kind of realized that everyone was trying to make their stories fit one version and it didn't really work."
Deputy Missoula County Attorney Jennifer Clark and her associate Mac Bloom prosecuted the case. Clark said the evidence proved the charges of rape against Schwartz.
"The evidence in the case was overwhelming that she did not give consent," Clark said. "The evidence of the long-term trauma that she suffered as a result of this, and the impact this had on her and her friends was devastating"
Clark said the jurors believed the victim's story.
"In speaking with some of the jurors, they said that everybody agreed and believed the victim in the case," she said. They didn't believe the defendant, but at the end of the day they said they didn't think he knew he didn't have consent."
KGVO News asked both attorneys whether they believed this not guilty verdict, taken with the acquittal two years ago of Jordan Johnson, would act to discourage other women from coming forward to report a sexual assault.
Brian Smith: "You have to be really careful. Given the current political climate, you have this pendulum that's swinging towards anybody that says anything, accusing someone of a crime, that they're automatically believed, that there's no critical thinking and you don't look at the evidence."
"One of the things we feared in this case," Smith continued, "Right after the release of the (Krakauer) book, that people aren't going to think about this as a system where you have to prove someone committed a crime. The nature of the charges are such that everybody loses. But, for us to say that this is somehow going to keep others from reporting a crime, I hope that's not what happens. But at the same time, you can't use this to diminish the rights of people who are accused of crimes. That's the biggest fear here, that we're going to get to the point where we're hurting everyone's rights. If it continues like this, you're going to be presumed guilty until proven innocent."
Jennifer Clark: I hope it doesn't deter others from coming forward. Every case is unique, and every jury is unique. We're going to continue to fight for those who have been victimized."
Clark said the victim and her family and friends were devastated by the outcome of the case, while Smith said Schwartz returned with his family to his home in Bozeman.
"He just gets to go on with the rest of his life," Smith said.