Roger Lewis Jr. was found not guilty on one rape charge, with a mistrial declared on another, after a jury spent all day Thursday on its deliberations.
Lewis was charged with two counts of rape, but the jury couldn’t reach a unanimous decision on the second count. The count pertained to the Jan. 6, 2012, incident, where Lewis was accused of raping a classmate in the back of her vehicle.
As Common Pleas Judge Richard Berens read the jury’s not guilty verdict, celebrations erupted from Lewis’ family. Lewis sat in between his attorneys, Lewis Williams and Neil Rosenberg, in disbelief.
While pleased with the jury’s not guilty verdict, the attorneys agreed Lewis still is not free to move on with his life.
“His life is still on hold,” Williams said. “It has been on hold since the indictment.”
Lewis’ attorneys advised their client not to speak with media.
Before the verdict was read, Berens asked the jurors one final time if they could reach an agreement on the Jan. 6 count. The jury foreman said they could not.
If found guilty, Lewis could have faced 11 years in prison for each count. Fairfield County Prosecutor Gregg Marx said the prosecution intends to explore all of its options, including a retrial.
“We are not deterred one iota,” Marx said. “We are confident in our victim and believe her a hundred times.”
Lewis was accused of raping a classmate twice; once in the back of her vehicle on Jan. 6, 2012, and once in a friend’s basement on Dec. 2, 2011. In audio recordings played for the court, Lewis said he and his accuser had consensual sex more than 10 times throughout their high school careers.
His accuser said her upbringing stopped her from reporting the incidents until she was urged by a friend.
Marx said he “feels badly for the victim and her family,” and said she was brave to have come forward.
The verdict was delivered after more than seven hours of deliberations Thursday. The jury deliberated for two full days Wednesday and Thursday, and also deliberated for about two hours late Tuesday.
Shortly before 1 p.m. Thursday, a jury member asked to speak with Berens. After the short conference, the jury member emerged from Berens’ chambers visibly upset. A reason was not provided.
The jury was given a short break before returning to deliberations later in the afternoon. The trial began Feb. 12 and included four days of testimony, followed by several hours of closing arguments Tuesday.
At one point during the deliberations, the jury asked for additional information — the accuser’s cellphone number. Berens denied the request.
Lewis starred on the Pickerington Central High School football team as a wide receiver until his senior year in 2011 and at one point verbally committed to play at Ohio State University. He later reopened the recruiting process and had offers from multiple colleges.
The prosecution and defense stayed after court had been dismissed to speak with the jury. Williams said he was interested in “learning the vote” on the mistrial.
“We wanted to see what impressed the jury and what didn’t, “ he said.
In the end, Lewis, the prosecution, the defense and Berens thanked the jury for their time and dedication to the case. Berens told the jury they were one of the more “conscientious and attentive juries the court has ever worked with.”
“Over one week ago, you took an oath. … I am very confident that you fulfilled your duty,” Berens said.
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