ROCKLAND — A judge Thursday evening acquitted a 16-year-old student from Hope who had been charged with sexually assaulting a female student in the parking lot of Camden Hills Regional High School.

Judge Susan Oram deliberated for 20 minutes before returning her ruling in Knox County Court. It came after a day-long trial at which both the young woman and young man testified.

The Camden Hills student from Hope had been charged with gross sexual assault and unlawful sexual touching stemming from an incident last May 20, in the young woman’s car in a parking lot after school. Both were students at the school.

“We were surprised that the State even brought these charges in the first place,” defense attorney Laura Shaw said after the verdict. “They were originally declined by the DA’s office as having no merit, and it wasn’t until the alleged victim’s family hired an attorney that the DA’s office even agreed to bring charges. It is completely clear that my client did nothing wrong and we are so happy that his innocence has finally been proven.”

Shaw had made that contention during her opening arguments in the trial and was challenged by District Attorney Natasha Irving.

The prosecutor said the young woman originally said she would not be able to handle testifying at a trial but later said she could. Irving said that the prosecution had originally declined to pursue criminal charges because the victim did not want to testify. Once she agreed, Irving reviewed the case and filed charges.


Irving said after the verdict that it was clear the case deserved to be prosecuted.

The female student testified Thursday that she told the young man to stop 10 or more times but that he continued to sexually assault her. The two had been friends, but not romantic partners, she said.

The young woman left the car and went into the school. School officials testified that she was distraught when she entered the school and reported that she had been assaulted.

Shaw said the young woman had tried to keep the relationship with her client secret because she had a boyfriend. Shaw noted that after the woman left her car, her client sent her a text asking where she was and indicating he did not know why she left.

The young man testified that while she said they shouldn’t do anything sexual because she had a boyfriend, her body language said otherwise. He said she never told him to stop.

A decision in a separate civil court case related to the incident is pending.

A state judge heard testimony Dec. 20 on an appeal by the mother of the accused, challenging an eight-day suspension imposed by the school. The mother claims the school did not follow proper procedures and denied her son his constitutional rights. Shaw is also representing the mother in that case.

Justice Bruce Mallonee, who is hearing the civil case, took the matter under advisement. A decision is not expected for at least another six weeks.

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