Rape trial results in acquittal

Nov 12, 2017 By Daniel Bendtsen, Staff Writer

A jury acquitted a Riverton man on Thursday of sexual assault in the first degree. Had Matthew Brown been convicted, he would have spent at least five years in prison, but could have been handed a prison sentence as long as 50 years.

The alleged victim told police that, while spending the night at Brown's mother's home in All Nations Trailer Park, she awoke to find Brown "pumping in and out of her."

Though she was going through a separation with her husband, she texted him quickly to come pick her up.

"I could tell something was wrong by the tone of voice and her urgency," her now ex-husband said.

After submitted to a rape kit at SageWest Health Care, Brown's DNA was found on the alleged victim.

When Jacob Nation, a detective for the Riverton Police Department, questioned Brown the next morning, the defendant gave inconsistent stories. He ultimately put the blame on his alleged victim, saying that he instead had been the victim of sexual assault.

While originally denying having any sexual contact with the alleged victim, Brown eventually told Nation that it was he who had awoken to find the woman on top of him.

The competing allegations battled each other at three days trial last week in which both the alleged victim and Brown took the stand . So, too, did Brown's mother and sister, who both had been in the trailer that night.

Fremont County deputy prosecuting attorney Tim Hancock noted that the alleged victim's story stayed almost entirely consistent after the original incident.

"Memories fade, but the truth doesn't change. If you tell the truth from the beginning, it doesn't become hard to repeat the truth later," he said.

The victim had no prior ill will toward Brown, Hancock said, and no reason to falsely accuse him.

Meanwhile, Brown originally denied any sexual contact and only accused the alleged victim of sexual assault once it became clear in his interrogation by Nation that Brown had become a suspect.

"Why would they say what they say? You can think about that," Hancock told the jury during his closing argument.

"What are their motives? The (alleged victim)'s testimony is the one that makes more sense."

But even if jurors didn't believe Brown's story, they evidently had enough reasonable doubt of the victim's.

After beginning their deliberations around 1 p.m. Thursday, a not guilty verdict was returned around 6 p.m.

Brown's public defender, Dan Caldwell, argued that the physical evidence supported Brown's version of the efforts.

The alleged victim had bruises on her knees. Caldwell said it supported the Brown's assertion that the woman climbed on top of him while he slept in his metal-framed cot.

Brown's DNA was found in the alleged victim's mouth. Caldwell suggested the alleged victim had initiated that contact, not Brown.

"If you're going to sexually assault someone, do you kiss them first?" he said of the prosecution's perspective.

In the alleged victim's version of the story, her friend had been lying asleep next to her during the assault. That friend said she never woke up during the incident.

"That just doesn't make sense," Caldwell said. "There's no way it happened like she said."

Caldwell said Nation spent an inadequate amount of time questioning the stories of the alleged victim and her friend for inconsistencies.

"Yes, (Brown) was evasive with law enforcement, but I don't know many people who would want to talk about their last sexual experience with a complete stranger -- especially if it was with a family member."

While not blood related, Brown and the alleged victim both consider each other cousins.

Brown said during his testimony that he originally was too embarrassed to tell Nation about the incident.

When Nation brought Brown in for questioning, he did not tell the defendant why he was being detained.

Brown testified that he was still somewhat drunk at the time.

"I was still dizzy and trying to get my mind straight on why I was there," he said.

The trial was Fremont County's first felony trial since James Morrison was acquitted of second-degree murder in September 2016.

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