Sunday 18 March 2018

Former investment banker acquitted of raping Irish J1 student in US

Jason Lee is accused of raping an Irish J1 student
Jason Lee is accused of raping an Irish J1 student

A former Goldman Sachs banker has been found not guilty of raping an Irish student at his rented holiday home in the US.

The female student, who was 20 at the time, had alleged she was attacked by Jason Lee in his $35,000-per-month rental home on Long Island on August 19, 2013.

The Irish student, who was on a J1 at the time, was celebrating the end of the summer trip in East Hampton, New York when she and her friends went back to a party at the home of the then 37-year-old.

Mr Lee, who is married, had pleaded not guilty to rape and assault.

After a three-week trial, Judge Barbara Kahn acquitted Mr Lee, 38, of the most serious charge of rape at a Suffolk county court in Riverhead, New York. The charge carried a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison.

Kahn also acquitted Lee of the lesser charges of sexual misconduct and assault in the third degree, which each carry a maximum of a year in prison.

Kahn said the prosecution had not met the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Kahn also noted that the alleged victim's brother did not testify at the trial even though he was present on the evening in question.

Lee, a former managing director at Goldman, did not testify at his trial and waived the right to a jury, opting instead for a bench trial in front of Kahn.

Jason Lee and his wife
Jason Lee and his wife

After the verdict, Lee left the courtroom stone-faced, flanked by his lawyers, and did not respond to questions from the press. He got into a black Jeep Patriot that was waiting outside the courthouse and left immediately.

He had been accused of barging into a bathroom and raping the woman, who was 20 years old at the time, after a night of drinking at a local night spot. His lawyers argued throughout the nearly three-week trial that the encounter in his $32,000-per-month luxury Hamptons vacation rental was consensual.

"These were false accusations and we are deeply troubled that it went this far," Edward Burke, one of Lee's lawyers, told reporters.

Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota said the prosecution had made every effort to contact the alleged victim's brother, but he chose not to testify at the trial. He said he thought the prosecution had proved its case nonetheless.

"I can't account for the judge's thinking," Spota said. "We disagree."

On Tuesday, defense attorney Andrew Lankler said in his closing statement that prosecutors failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that sex was not consensual and that key points of the prosecution's case were inconsistent.

The prosecutor, Assistant District Attorney Kerriann Kelly, said inconsistencies concerned "peripheral details" and that Lee's actions subsequent to the alleged attack had clearly shown "consciousness of guilt".


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