Jury finds man guilty of raping teen he met at Lawrence college bar, unable to agree on other count

photo by: Sara Shepherd

Albert N. Wilson, 23, is taken into custody by deputies after a jury found him guilty of rape on Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019, in Douglas County District Court.

Updated at 6:50 p.m. Thursday

A jury on Thursday convicted a 23-year-old former University of Kansas student of rape, for victimizing a drunken 17-year-old girl he met at a Lawrence college bar.

Albert N. Wilson, now of Wichita, was charged with two counts of rape; jurors convicted him of one count but failed to reach an agreement on the second count.

It hasn’t been decided whether he’ll move forward to sentencing or whether he’ll have a retrial on the second count, in light of the hung jury. Prosecutor Amy McGowan asked for more time to decide how to proceed, and a hearing is scheduled for Wednesday to announce that.

Wilson, who had been free on bond, became emotional as he was taken into custody after the jury announced its verdict. So did his mother and other relatives and friends in the courtroom.

The victim was not in the courtroom for the verdict, nor were any of her relatives. Other than taking the stand to testify, she did not watch any of the proceedings.

The jury deliberated close to six hours before announcing the verdict about 5:15 p.m. Thursday.

The rape happened on a Saturday night in September 2016. Wilson, a KU student at the time, met the girl at the Jayhawk Cafe, known as the Hawk, just off the KU campus at 1340 Ohio St. Both were underage — Wilson used a friend’s ID to get in and the girl wasn’t carded at all.

The girl, a high-schooler visiting from the Kansas City area, testified that Wilson first lifted her skirt and assaulted her in the Boom Boom Room — the dark, crowded dance floor in the bar’s basement. She said he then led her, stumbling drunk, to his home a couple of blocks away and raped her. Video shows the two leaving the bar hand-in-hand, then returning separately roughly 15 minutes later.

Before jurors began deliberating, Douglas County District Court Judge Sally Pokorny explained that Wilson was charged with raping the girl either by using force or fear, or because she was too intoxicated to give consent. Under Kansas law, rape is the nonconsensual penetration of a woman either by a finger or the male sex organ, the judge said.

Jurors found Wilson guilty of raping the girl by using force or fear, but did not specify in court whether that finding was for the act in the bar or at his home.

Taking the stand at his own trial on Wednesday, Wilson said the encounter in the bar was consensual and that they did not have intercourse at his home, because he got a call from his friend and decided to go back to the bar instead. He also said the girl was not drunk.

After two days of testimony, McGowan and Wilson’s appointed attorney, Forrest Lowry, delivered their closing arguments Thursday morning.

photo by: Sara Shepherd

Prosecutor Amy McGowan gestures while speaking to the jury during her closing arguments in the Albert N. Wilson rape trial on Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019, in Douglas County District Court.

McGowan contended that Wilson deliberately “targeted” the obviously intoxicated girl at the bar, found her to be tractable and took advantage of that, leading her on to his house for sex then running away after she walked back to the bar in tears.

She said the girl, visibly emotional and diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after the event, was believable while Wilson’s story was not corroborated by evidence.

“This has come down to, as you can all imagine, your determination of who you believe. Who is credible?” McGowan said.

The girl testified that she not only told Wilson no, she was unable to defend herself because of the effects of alcohol, McGowan said. McGowan said the girl’s statements would have made this clear to Wilson.

“‘No, I don’t want to do this. No, I’m too drunk,'” McGowan said. “She said it over and over again.”

McGowan said the girl’s cousin, whom she was visiting on campus, corroborated her version of events surrounding the assaults. Her mother and a forensic psychologist corroborated her emotional devastation afterward.

While forensic testing found no seminal fluid on the girl’s clothing or vaginal swab, that doesn’t necessarily mean sexual intercourse did not occur, KBI technicians testified.

Importantly, photos from the sexual assault exam the girl got at a hospital the next day corroborated her account that Wilson held her legs down while he raped her on his bed, McGowan said.

“She’s got two bruises right where she said he had his hands, in the approximate size and shape of thumbs,” McGowan said. “You can look at the pictures.”

Contrarily, Wilson’s explanation for why the girl might have accused him of rape didn’t make sense, McGowan said.

“The whole reason we’re here in court, the whole reason that (the victim) has gone through this entire process, is because she’s angry that he denied her sex when they were at his house?” McGowan said.

“Is that credible in light of everything you’ve heard? Absolutely not.”

McGowan cautioned against questioning the girl’s reactions to the assault, such as not physically fighting back while it was occurring and not immediately calling the police afterward.

“This is where it’s easy to put one’s own expectations on that girl,” McGowan said. “You have a 17-year-old girl with no life experience … she knows she’s been violated, she knows something traumatic happened, and she’s trying to figure it out.”

The defense categorized the event as two young people doing what young people do.

“They were in the Boom Boom Room where, as you know from the video, pretty much anything goes,” Lowry said. “She’s kissing him, and he’s kissing her back.”

Lowry said they both had the same intentions. He said the sexual encounter on the dance floor and later making out on Wilson’s bed were “a natural continuation and extension of what they were doing already.”

photo by: Sara Shepherd

Defense attorney Forrest Lowry delivers his closing arguments to jurors in the rape trial against Albert N. Wilson on Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019, in Douglas County District Court.

Wilson testified that he did not have intercourse with the girl, and Lowry said there was no evidence that he did. Contrary to the girl’s testimony that she was stumbling, Lowry said surveillance video showed her walking just fine.

He disputed that the girl was too drunk to consent, or that she did not consent to the activity that did occur.

“There was no signed statement,” Lowry said. “… By everything she did, according to Albert, she indicated that sex was what she wanted.”

Lowry said jurors could only speculate about why the young woman — who is white, while Wilson is black — claimed she was raped. He said they could only speculate what actually triggered the PTSD that she and the psychologist described.

“She’s a young girl going to a private Catholic all-girls school; she may have thought that she had gone too far with a strange man. I don’t know if race has anything to do with it; it may have,” Lowry said. “You don’t know, and you will probably never know.”

Lowry said his client was not a criminal. He said Wilson had no prior criminal history and testified that he’d never even talked to the police before.

“He is a young man accused of two heinous crimes, of which he is not guilty,” Lowry said.

More coverage

Jan. 9, 2019 — Defendant at trial: ‘She didn’t seem intoxicated at all … I didn’t rape her’

Jan. 8, 2019 — At trial of Lawrence man, woman describes being raped as teen, devastation that followed

Jan. 7, 2019 — Rape trial begins for man accused of leading intoxicated high school girl away from Lawrence college bar

Nov. 22, 2017 — Judge orders man accused of raping teen he met at college bar to stand trial

Nov. 9, 2017 — Affidavit allegation: Man raped drunken teen after leading her away from Lawrence college bar

Contact Journal-World public safety reporter Sara Shepherd