Convict cleared of sexual assault charge

Posted March 23, 2010, at 10:21 p.m.
Willie Walter Harper. PHOTO COURTESY OF PENOBSCOT COUNTY JAIL. w/Harrison story
Willie Walter Harper. PHOTO COURTESY OF PENOBSCOT COUNTY JAIL. w/Harrison story

BANGOR, Maine — A Superior Court judge on Monday found a convicted sex offender not guilty of raping an 18-year-old high school student last year in his Dexter home.

Justice Michaela Murphy found Willie W. Harper, 41, of Dexter not guilty of gross sexual assault by compulsion, meaning he allegedly used physical force to subdue his victim.

Murphy announced her decision Monday after hearing two days of testimony last week at the Penobscot Judicial Center, defense attorney F. David Walker IV of Bangor said.

Harper had been held at the Penobscot County Jail while awaiting trial. He was released Monday after his acquittal, according to a jail official.

“My client wept openly as the verdict was read,” Walker said.

Harper is required to register as a sex offender because of a December 2003 conviction for sexual abuse of a minor. He was sentenced to three years with all but nine months suspended and ordered to register as a sex offender, according to reports previously published in the Bangor Daily News.

Details about the incident that led to those charges were not available Tuesday at the Penobscot Judicial Center. Because the case is 7 years old, the file has been archived at a Hampden warehouse.

Harper was indicted last May for gross sexual assault by the Penobscot County grand jury. He allegedly forced an 18-year-old student to have sex with him after a party at his apartment in early April 2009, according to Walker.

The alleged victim, who now lives in Pawtucket, R.I., and her parents, were living with Harper at his Dexter apartment when the incident occurred, according to Michael Roberts, deputy district attorney for Penobscot County.

“He did not testify at the trial,” Roberts said Tuesday, “but in interviews with police he gave two different stories. First he denied having sex with her. In a subsequent interview, he said the sex was consensual.”

Murphy did not issue a written decision. The judge, according to Roberts, said she found some inconsistencies in what the victim said on the stand and what other witnesses said.

“The judge said that she could not say beyond a reasonable doubt that compulsion occurred,” the prosecutor said. “[Murphy] said she was surprised the victim had so few injuries compared to the way she described resisting the defendant.”

Harper spent nearly a year in jail while awaiting trial but five months of that time was for a sentence on a conviction for violating his probation on the 2003 conviction. The charges that led to that sentence were unrelated to the gross sexual assault charge, Roberts said.

After he served the five months on the probation violation, his bail on the rape charge was set at $5,000 cash or $20,000 surety. Harper was unable to pay such a high bail.

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