Jury convicts man in Johns Hopkins fraternity house rape case
By Justin Fenton
The Baltimore Sun|
Feb 19, 2016 | 4:55 PM
A 20-year-old Reisterstown man was convicted of sex offense and assault charges Thursday in the rape of a 16-year-old girl at a Johns Hopkins University fraternity party in 2014.
Jurors voted to convict Ethan Turner of second-degree sex offense and second-degree assault. But they found him not guilty of second-degree rape, the most serious charge he faced. Turner was accused along with another man of forcing sex on the intoxicated victim in the basement of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon house.
Turner was immediately taken into custody as supporters sobbed in the courtroom. Sentencing was set for April 7.
The other man charged in the case, Chaz Haggins, 22, pleaded guilty last week to rape and received 20 years in prison, with all but five years suspended.
Assistant State's Attorney Robert Perkins told jurors in closing arguments that the men — who were not Johns Hopkins students — forced sex on a vulnerable girl who had been taken to a college party by her older sister, who was friends with the men. The victim had never drunk alcohol before, became heavily intoxicated and was abandoned by her sister, authorities said.
"Instead of helping her, [Turner] took advantage of these vulnerabilities," Perkins said.
Turner's defense attorney, Matthew Fraling, said his client was not involved in the assault. He said the victim's mental state at the time — her blood-alcohol level was estimated at 0.17, more than twice the standard for drunken driving — made her identification of Turner as a second attacker unreliable.
"At the end of the day, the state has one witness — one highly intoxicated and inebriated witness," Fraling said, adding several times that he was not "pillorying" the victim. "How many times [on the witness stand] did she say, 'I can't remember'?"
Haggins' DNA was found on the victim's body during a forensic examination, which revealed bruising and bleeding. Two other DNA profiles were found but could not be conclusively linked to other suspects, which Fraling highlighted as cause for reasonable doubt.
The Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter at Johns Hopkins was first temporarily suspended following the announcement of the rape charges. But after throwing a party during the temporary suspension, the university in July 2015 revoked its recognition of the chapter for at least four years.
The chapter cannot host social activities of any kind, recruit new members or hold fraternity meetings while under the suspension. In an email to students, university officials wrote that the suspension "is indicative of the university's continued efforts to hold members of our community accountable for building and upholding a safe, supportive, and inclusive campus environment."
Perkins said a student fraternity member encountered the victim after she emerged from the basement, crying out that she had been raped. He was the one who called police, Perkins said.
The victim was consistent in her account that she had been forced to have sex by two men, with a third entering the bathroom at one point.
A third man who was a friend of Turner and Haggins testified that he entered the bathroom, saw the girl alone and clearly drunk, and left because he "didn't want nothing to do with" someone in that state.
Turner had acted as a lookout while Haggins assaulted her, then took his own turn, Perkins said.
"When these defendants were finished getting what they wanted, they left her alone and victimized," Perkins said.
The victim's sister later showed her pictures of Haggins and Turner, and she identified them as her attackers.
Fraling said the victim had gone through a "traumatic and devastating" experience — but at the hands of Haggins. He said the victim's sister failed to care for her at the party and manipulated her into identifying Turner as one of the suspects. He also questioned whether the victim was standing by her account because of a pending $30 million civil suit filed against the men, the fraternity and Johns Hopkins in July.
Baltimore Sun reporter Carrie Wells contributed to this article.