ELLSWORTH, Maine — A Mount Desert man was found innocent Thursday of forcing a woman to have sex after they consumed alcohol at a social gathering two years ago.
Joshua Busby, 22, was acquitted Thursday afternoon by a jury of 11 men and one woman who deliberated for about half an hour after hearing two days of testimony in Hancock County Superior Court.
The 20-year-old woman who accused Busby of raping her testified Wednesday that Busby grabbed her by the throat and forced himself on her as she slept at a house in Mount Desert on Jan. 21, 2008. The woman, Busby and others had been hanging out and drinking alcohol at the home for hours before she fell asleep and then woke up in an upstairs bedroom with Busby on top of her, she said.
Busby contended that the sex was consensual and that the woman made up the story of being raped to avoid getting in trouble with someone else she was dating.
Matthew Foster, Busby’s attorney, said after the verdict that testimony from others who had been at the gathering supported his client’s version of events. Their testimony Thursday morning likely convinced the jury to find his client not guilty, he said.
“Obviously, I’m very thrilled for Josh. He’s been worried about [the trial],” Foster said. “He busted out crying when he heard the verdict.”
Mary Kellett, assistant Hancock County district attorney, agreed that testimony of others at the party probably influenced the jury’s decision. They said that the woman was being friendly with Busby throughout the night and again the next morning, after they all woke up in the same house.
Kellett said rape cases that may hinge on one person’s word being weighed against another’s often are tough to try in court. They can be even more complicated when the memory of witnesses is affected by heavy alcohol consumption, she said.
But Kellett said a key point in this case was the woman’s contention that she told Busby to stop and he didn’t and that she couldn’t move because he held her by the throat. That is different from becoming intoxicated and then regretting your behavior after you sober up, she said. The victim may have been intoxicated, but she knew at the time that she didn’t want to be having sex with Busby, according to the prosecutor.
“She didn’t consent. They told very contradictory stories about what happened in that room,” Kellett said. “I felt [the victim] was a strong witness.”
The woman had told the jury that Busby choked her, leaving a mark on her neck and putting her in pain as they had sex. She said she initially was confused about what had happened but, over the course of the next day, came to the conclusion that Busby had raped her. She went to the hospital and talked to police the night after the alleged incident.
Kellett said if there is a wider lesson to be learned from the trial, it is that getting drunk to the point of passing out or having a cloudy memory can have consequences.
“Clearly, the amount they had to drink would have affected their behavior,” Kellett said. “These are people drinking to the point of excess at a very young age. Bad things happen.”