District attorney’s office plans to resolve Albert Wilson’s rape case ‘short of trial’

photo by: Sara Shepherd/Journal-World File Photo

In this Journal-World file photo from Jan. 9, 2019, Albert N. Wilson takes the stand at his own trial in Douglas County District Court.

While Albert Wilson is entitled to a new trial for a rape charge he was originally convicted of in 2019, Douglas County District Attorney Suzanne Valdez said during a hearing on Tuesday that her office planned to work toward resolving the case without a second trial.

“We have promised Mr. Wilson’s counsel that we will work with them,” Valdez said. “We (will) attempt to resolve this short of trial … so that we can hopefully get justice for both the defendant and the survivor.”

Judge Sally Pokorny set Wilson’s next court date for May 13, when a trial setting will be considered.

Last week, Pokorny ordered a new trial in the case after Wilson’s attorneys successfully argued that his original attorney, Forrest Lowry, provided ineffective assistance of counsel.

Wilson, who had been serving his original sentence at a prison in Hutchinson, was transferred back to Douglas County Jail on Friday, according to jail records. He was released later that day on a $100,000 bond.

A jury in January 2019 convicted Wilson, now 25, of one count of rape in connection with a Sept. 11, 2016, incident. Wilson has been serving a 12.5-year sentence.

As the Journal-World has reported, the alleged victim in the case, a girl who was 17 at the time, met Wilson at The Hawk, a popular bar near the University of Kansas campus. She testified that she was drunk and that Wilson, then a 20-year-old KU student, lifted her skirt and assaulted her at the bar and then walked her to his house a couple of blocks away, raped her, then walked her back to the bar.

Wilson was convicted of rape for the incident at the house, but the jury hung on the incident at the bar.

On appeal, Wilson has been represented by two attorneys, Michael Whalen and Josh Dubin. Based on Whalen’s motion, the Kansas Court of Appeals agreed on Feb. 6, 2020, to send the case back to Douglas County District Court for Pokorny to decide whether Wilson should get a new trial.

In their arguments, Dubin and Whalen said the case came down to the girl’s credibility. That was key in a number of specific points they made, but one particular focus was on data from the girl’s phone. If Wilson’s appointed attorney, Lowry, had realized he had certain additional evidence, including text messages and photos from the girl’s phone, he could have more effectively cross-examined her and others who testified, they wrote.

Pokorny agreed with the defense, saying questions could have been raised based on thousands of text messages, which had not been used as evidence in the trial, to influence the jury’s decision.

“The court’s confidence in the jury’s verdict is undermined by Mr. Lowry’s failure to review text messages,” Pokorny said. “It is my firm belief that if a jury knew of the information contained in the 2,000 text messages taken from the victim’s phone, there is a substantial likelihood the outcome of this case would have been different,” she added.

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