North Haverhill — Parker Gilbert ’16 was found not guilty of rape Thursday afternoon. The jurors acquitted Gilbert, 21, of all charges: five counts of aggravated felonious sexual assault and one misdemeanor count of criminal trespass.
Friends and family of Gilbert filled the courtroom Thursday afternoon. His parents held hands as the verdict was announced.
Gilbert was found not guilty of vaginal penetration through force, vaginal penetration through concealment or by the element of surprise before the complainant had an adequate chance to flee or resist, vaginal penetration when the complainant was physically helpless to resist because she was sleeping, vaginal penetration without free consent, anal penetration without free consent and criminal trespass.
The verdict came after nearly two weeks of testimony from family members, law enforcement officials, medical professionals, undergraduates and experts.
“We are relieved that this nightmare is over for Parker Gilbert and his family,” Gilbert’s attorneys wrote in a statement. “Parker is innocent, and we thank the men and women of the jury for doing their job.”
County prosecutor Lara Saffo also thanked the jury in a statement.
“We know that these are difficult cases,” Saffo said.
During the trial, the prosecution alleged that Gilbert raped the 19-year-old complainant vaginally, orally and anally in the early morning of May 2, 2013. The defense stated that the two had engaged in consensual sex, arguing that the events of May 2 were “drunken, awkward, college sex,” not rape.
Gilbert, who is no longer enrolled in classes at Dartmouth, did not testify in the trial.
After beginning its deliberations Wednesday afternoon, the 12-person jury, comprising six men and six women, reconvened at 9 a.m. Thursday and returned with a decision about four hours later.
The jurors appeared upbeat as they entered the courtroom. After the jury read their decision, the approximately 30 people who had assembled to support Gilbert hugged and cried. Following Gilbert’s exit from the courtroom, they gathered outside, saying “thank God” as they embraced.
Jury foreman Rick Rogers, of Enfield, said the complainant’s testimony most influenced his belief that Gilbert was not guilty.
The complainant testified that she went to sleep after the alleged rape without locking her door. In her testimony, the complainant said she recounted the events of the early morning to a friend who slept in her bed, saying Gilbert had come into the room and they had sex.
Rogers said that for him, “the clincher” was the complainant’s omission of the word “rape” when describing her interaction with Gilbert to her friend.
Such behavior is typical among victims of sexual assault, WISE executive director Peggy O’Neil said.
“It can take a while for people to understand what just happened to them, particularly because there can be a delayed reaction,” she said. “The victim in this case, as I understood her testimony, was trying to understand what happened to her. She had shut down after she was assaulted. As victims will do, she went on with usual activities. This is not unusual.”
Rogers said the events of May 2 became a “problem,” in his view, after one of the complainant’s friends “insisted” that the complainant undergo a sexual assault exam.
All of the jurors spoke while deliberating Wednesday afternoon and Thursday, Rogers said. One female juror raised some concerns and asked for clarifications, Rogers said, but he declined to specify what these concerns were. Following five hours of discussion, the jury unanimously decided to acquit Gilbert of all charges.
The jury acquitted Gilbert of trespassing because the complainant’s testimony and that of her male floormate were inconsistent, Rogers said.
Rogers said that while the complainant testified that Gilbert was looking for her, her male floormate testified that Gilbert pounded on his door because Gilbert thought he was entering his own room. Additionally, the complainant testified that she did not think she opened the door for Gilbert. Rogers said this indicated uncertainty on the part of the complainant.
While most of the witnesses appeared to have vested interests in the friend they testified on behalf of, Rogers called the complainant’s roommate “the most credible witness.”
The roommate was “instrumental,” he said, because she had not been drinking. The roommate is a member of The Dartmouth staff.
The jurors “all felt very badly” for the complainant and Gilbert, Rogers said.
“This is something we wish had never happened, we’re sorry it got this far, but with the case that the state had there was no way that any of us could find him guilty,” he said.
On Monday, Judge Peter Bornstein dismissed a charge of oral penetration and one of two anal penetration charges. The Court dismissed two charges of simple sexual assault on Feb. 25.
During the course of the trial, the prosecution argued that Gilbert raped a female undergraduate student after entering her room uninvited the morning of May 2, 2013. The prosecution alleged that Gilbert raped the complainant vaginally, orally and anally, and that the complainant told him to stop multiple times.
According to witnesses called by the prosecution, the complainant changed after the morning of the alleged assault, becoming quieter and refusing to sleep in her own bed for the rest of spring term.
Defense attorneys argued that intercourse between Gilbert and the complainant was consensual, relying primarily on testimony from the complainant’s roommate. The roommate was awake in the next room during the alleged assault, defense attorneys said, and did not hear loud noises, crying or expressions of pain on the night in question.
The defense also argued that the complainant did not seek help for the alleged attack until after talking to a female friend who urged her to go to Dick’s House.
Amy Olson, the College’s senior media relations officer, responded to the verdict in an emailed statement on Thursday afternoon.
“We know that many members of the community have been following the case of the State v. Gilbert with a range of emotions,” Olson said in the statement. “At this time, we are focused on the well-being of the community and moving forward.”
In a joint statement, WISE and the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence called Thursday’s decision “devastating.”
“There is no doubt that it sends a terrible message to survivors of sexual assault,” the statement said. “Something has got to change if we can allow a man who has no relationship with the victim to violate her in her own bed and face no consequences.”
The team defending Gilbert included Cathy Green of Green and Utter, Robert Cary ’86 of Williams and Connolly and George Ostler ’77 of DesMeules, Olmstead and Ostler.