CLEARFIELD – A jury deliberated for approximately 25 minutes yesterday afternoon before returning a not guilty verdict on all charges against Joseph A. Brown, 60, of DuBois, who was accused of raping a 71-year-old woman, after a two-day trial before Clearfield County President Judge Fredric J. Ammerman.
Brown was found not guilty of rape, criminal attempt/involuntary deviate sexual intercourse by forcible compulsion, sexual assault, aggravated indecent assault and indecent assault. Brown had been incarcerated since being accused of the alleged rape on Dec. 11, 2012 and was being released yesterday from the Clearfield County Jail after the trial.
“We are pleased with the verdict,” said defense attorney Michael Marshall. “From the very beginning, Joe has always adamantly maintained to me that he didn’t do it. That it was consensual.”
Marshall said the defense’s “biggest hurdle” during the course of the trial was convincing jurors that because the woman had sustained serious injuries to her private area, didn’t mean that Brown had raped her. He felt outside the commonwealth’s medical evidence, everything else swayed into the defense’s favor.
Clearfield County District Attorney William A. Shaw Jr. said he was disappointed with the outcome of the trial. He said for whatever reason, jurors apparently were not comfortable with convicting Brown. Shaw said if he prosecuted this case again, he wouldn’t change anything, as he thought this trial “went off without a hitch.”
“I thought we had more than sufficient evidence . . . and the pictures were very compelling,” he said. “I thought there would be at least one juror who would have wanted to talk about it more, but I respect the jury’s decision.”
Shaw said he was very proud of the 71-year-old woman who showed a lot of strength and courage throughout the entire court process. He said she was also disappointed in the verdict but felt vindicated for telling her story.
“From day one, her story never changed. She knows what happened,” he said. Shaw said if Brown had been convicted of rape, he would have faced a mandatory minimum of five years of incarceration for that charge alone.
Before the jury returned its verdict yesterday, it heard Brown testify in his own defense. A few days before the alleged rape, he said the woman invited him to come over some time to watch television and to talk. On Dec. 10, he called her from Wines & Spirits to say he would stop by to which she agreed. When he spoke of plans to “have a sip” while he visited, she told him alcohol wasn’t permitted in her residence.
Once he parked at the rear of her residence, Brown said he called the woman again and she told him “the door was open.” He consumed one 16-ounce can of Budweiser and a few swallows of wine before he went inside. He said when he went in the woman wanted him to sit right next to her. Brown left the residence once to drink more wine.
This time he said when he returned and sat next to the woman, she began rubbing his leg. He then began to rub her leg and suggested they go into her bedroom to which he said she agreed and led the way. He said in the bedroom, he took off her top and the woman took off her bottoms, and when he undressed and turned around she was lying on the bed and he got on top of her.
Brown said they had sex and the woman never indicated to him that it was unwanted or painful. Afterward he put a shirt on and told her he was going to the living room, where he eventually fell asleep. Brown didn’t wake until he was startled by police, saying “he couldn’t believe it and didn’t know what had happened.”
Under cross-examination, Brown admitted to being positioned between the woman and her bedroom door. He said if she had wanted to leave, he would have allowed her to willingly go. He also admitted to kissing and touching the woman, as well as to having sex with her for approximately 10-15 minutes, which he said was all consensual.
“All these injuries to her private area, and she never once said ‘no,’ ‘stop,’ or ‘it hurts?’ asked Shaw. Brown said that was correct.
When asked why he didn’t immediately leave, Brown said he couldn’t start his car, which has a breathalyzer installed. He said while passed out on the woman’s couch, he neither heard the woman call police nor heard the police arrive.
Deborah Carlson of DuBois said she’d known Brown since around 2007, as he’d lived with her daughter for a couple of years. In addition, she had become acquainted with the woman about two years ago, as she frequented a food pantry that her church services. She and the church also assisted the woman with other financial needs.
Carlson’s testimony ended when Marshall wanted to ask about discussions she had with the woman before and after the alleged rape had occurred. The woman hadn’t provided any testimony earlier during the trial regarding these discussions and if they had occurred. As a result, Ammerman advised Marshall to proceed by having the woman testify and then recalling Carlson.
When the woman was called, she was first asked about when Carlson visited her residence a few months prior to the alleged rape. More specifically, she was asked if she ever mentioned to Carlson that she “felt safe because Joe Brown was coming around.” The woman didn’t recall making the statement.
Marshall then asked the woman about a discussion she had with Carlson in the weeks after Dec. 11, 2012 during which she spoke of what Brown had allegedly done to her. More specifically he asked about her commenting that if Brown was found guilty, she could sue him for half of his military pension for the pain and suffering he’d caused her. She admitted to making this statement. Under cross-examination, the woman said she was very upset and angry at Brown for what he’d done to her.
When Marshall recalled Carlson, she testified to going to visit the woman out of concern for her not more than two months before the alleged rape. Carlson said the woman told her she felt safe in her home because Brown stopped around.
After hearing about the alleged rape, Carlson said she went to see the woman to console her. She said when discussing the alleged rape, the woman didn’t show any emotion. However, she said the woman told her she was upset and couldn’t sleep in her bed anymore. Carlson said the woman told her that if Brown was convicted, she could sue him for half of his military pension.
Under cross-examination, Carlson said she felt the woman’s statement was “very profound.” She didn’t want Brown to end up in prison for something he didn’t do. Carlson said she also felt it was an “interesting” statement by the woman, as she hadn’t shown any emotion when discussing the alleged rape.
When asked later by Marshall, Carlson said she wasn’t a fan of Brown, and she wasn’t trying to help him out. When asked moments later by Shaw, Carlson paused to think before saying Brown should be held accountable if he raped the woman.
The woman’s upstairs neighbor testified last on behalf of the defense. Around 10:30 p.m. Dec. 10, 2012, she returned to her residence and noticed a dark blue car in the rear lot. That night she went to bed around midnight and likely fell asleep by 1:30 a.m.
She said she’s able to hear sounds, such as voices and the dog barking, in the apartment below her. She said it was very quiet on the night in question, except for the back door opening and closing on two occasions between 10:30 p.m. and midnight.
Two or three days later, she said the woman came upstairs at which time she learned of the alleged rape. She said the woman appeared to be normal and was neither crying nor acting upset.
During his closing arguments, Marshall argued the woman didn’t show much resistance when Brown was allegedly pulling her from the couch to go into the bedroom. He said the woman could have easily just sat down on the floor.
Marshall said the woman also didn’t show much resistance when Brown was allegedly undressing her against her own will. He pointed out she didn’t attempt to put her clothes back on while Brown was undressing. Marshall noted that all of the woman’s clothing was still intact afterward.
He said the woman offered differing testimony about why she didn’t yell out for help. He said at first she didn’t think anyone was around to hear her before saying she tried to scream but couldn’t get anything to come out. He suggested that she altered her testimony to whatever made more sense for her at the time.
He argued when the woman went into the bathroom to get away from Brown she didn’t close the door behind her. He felt it was strange that “she didn’t think about it” when it would be the first obvious thing to come to mind. He thought it was even stranger that she wasn’t sure if her bathroom door locked.
Marshall said that the officers testified about Brown being startled when he was awoken by them. He said Brown didn’t react like a guy who had committed rape but instead like a guy who just had sex. He noted Brown cooperated with police and submitted an interview and written statement.
He said Carlson referenced important statements the woman had made about suing Brown if he would be convicted of raping her. He said her upstairs neighbor also didn’t hear anything sexual in nature downstairs, because what occurred was consensual between two people who were trying to be discreet.
In closing Shaw argued that the commonwealth wasn’t alleging Brown committed a violent rape during which he was kicking and overturning household furnishings. Instead he said it was a case of non-violent sexual coercion. Shaw said it wasn’t reasonable to expect a 71-year-old woman to put up a fight given her numerous health-related issues.
He said Brown could have easily slipped the woman’s shirt over her head within seconds. At that point, he said she’s shocked, scared and powerless, and it shouldn’t be held against her that she didn’t fight back.
Shaw argued the whole purpose of Carlson’s testimony was for her to raise questions around the woman wanting to sue Brown for his pension. He said the woman was mad and upset and if she wanted to sue Brown, “good for her, she should for a billion dollars.”
He suggested the defense wanted everyone to believe the woman invited Brown over for consensual sex. He said if it was consensual, she wouldn’t have hidden in the bathroom to call 911 and ran water to cover up her call. He said if it was consensual, she wouldn’t have called police at 1:30 a.m. and submitted herself to the trauma of a rape kit examination.
Shaw said if it was consensual, there wouldn’t have been a need for Brown to put his hands on the woman and to cause internal bleeding in her private area. He said the tears and abrasions pictured were compelling evidence and showed the pain that the woman endured to a sensitive part of her body.
He told jurors that the judge would never tell them that they couldn’t find someone guilty of rape, because the victim didn’t cry. He said everyone reacts to rape differently, and this was probably the most traumatic event this woman had ever experienced in her life. Ultimately Shaw said the charges were filed against Brown based upon the interview process and the rape kit that showed “gross trauma.”