Not Guilty Verdict in a Rape Case Against a College Student
Sexual assault and rape cases present an added level of complexity to the job of a defense attorney. In addition to all the intangibles and strategic nuances of other criminal matters, sexual assault cases almost always produce a more highly charged courtroom atmosphere by virtue of the sensitive, difficult and emotional testimony these cases offer. As a result, a skillful defense lawyer must walk a fine line in the courtroom between compassion and advocacy. When and how hard to push a witness are often the keys to presenting a client’s case in a way that will be appreciated and understood by a jury.
A male Saint Joseph’s University student was charged with the rape and sexual assault of a female student in her dormitory room. The defendant categorically denied the charges and retained attorney Michael van der Veen to represent him. The case was meticulously prepared for trial and tried before a judge, as a bench trial.
The keys to the defense offered by van der Veen were two pieces of rebuttal evidence that discredited the version of events presented by the complaining witness. The first piece of evidence was surveillance video footage that van der Veen was able to obtain showing the complaining witness making multiple trips in and out of her dormitory building during the time of the alleged assault. The second piece of evidence was the cell phone record of the complaining witness, which showed calls to a number of other men at the time of the alleged assault.
Not only did this evidence contradict the testimony of the alleged victim, but also it significantly diminished her credibility.
Taken together, the evidence presented by van der Veen created reasonable doubt sufficient for the judge, to come back with a verdict of NOT GUILTY on all charges.
Make no mistake, however, this case was not won by simply showing the judge some phone records and video evidence. It took the extraordinary skill and experience of a true trial attorney to present this evidence in a meaningful and persuasive manner and send his client home a free man.
One of Philadelphia’s foremost personal injury, criminal defense and commercial litigation law firms, van der Veen, O’Neill, Hartshorn, and Levin combine nearly a century of passion-driven comprehensive law practice and client-centered representation for the full benefit of their clients. Their experience fighting for clients, serving the community and excelling in litigation has earned them the reputation as one of Pennsylvania’s toughest, hardest-working law firms.