SMU Student Donald Cuba Found Not Guilty of Rape

A Dallas County jury has found Donald Cuba not guilty of rape, The Dallas Morning News' Melissa Repko is reporting. Cuba, a 20-year-old junior, was accused of raping a fellow student in a dorm room early on the morning of February 10, 2012. As we wrote this morning, the trial has offered a few glimpses into the school's secretive on-campus justice system, SMU's preferred method of handling sexual assault complaints.

Although we had anticipated that he might, Cuba didn't take the stand this morning before the defense rested its case. Meanwhile, the prosecution tried to add two lesser charges to the rape charge, assault and unlawful restraint. But Judge Susan Hawk denied those requests.

"You do all or nothing here," she told prosecutors Kendall Castello and Cresta Garland. The witnesses, she said, say "either a sexual assault occurred or it didn't."

In his closing arguments, prosecutor Castello told the jury that the case boiled down to "what happened in a room without the consent of Jan Doe." All the other details the defense brought up -- about whether Doe had been drinking, about inconsistencies in her story -- weren't relevant to the central question of whether a rape had occurred, he said. "You can always find discrepancies if you put your net wide enough."

The defense, though, said that Doe had lied or changed her story about whether she was drinking that night, and whom she'd been with. Attorney Robert Udashen said that damaged her credibility irreparably. "She has the audacity to come in here and try to reconcile these different statements to you," he said, referring to Doe saying in one instance, apparently at an on-campus hearing, that Cuba had removed her clothes, and in another that he'd simply pushed her underwear and shorts to the side.

"She just answers how she wants to answer at that particular hearing," Udashen added.

In the end, though, the jury decided that Cuba couldn't be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. After deliberating for about two hours, they returned the verdict. Repko reports that there was a "loud reaction, shouts and applause" when the not guilty verdict was read. Outside the courtroom, she writes, one student told Cuba, "Now we can make jokes."

Meanwhile, CultureMap's Claire St. Amant tweets that Cuba says he will file "quite a few civil lawsuits in the matter and the word confidential will not be included in any settlement."