Jury Hears Opening Statements In Rape Trial

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The defense attorney for a Gallipolis man accused of raping an Ohio University student painted a picture that showed his client was a National Guard member who showed concern for the welfare of an intoxicated female. Prosecutors however assert that DNA evidence proves the man is guilty of rape.

The trial of Levi Canterbury began Monday in Athens County Common Pleas Court with opening arguments from Athens County Assistant Prosecutor Elizabeth Pepper and defense attorney William Eachus.

Both described the status of the alleged victim in the case, walking along Route 682 in September 2011 in an intoxicated state, unaware that she was walking without pants.

“Ninety percent of the things you’re going to hear, she won’t remember,” Eachus told the jury.

The OU student had just left a party after having a few drinks, Pepper and Eachus said, and came into contact with Canterbury on the road.

“The next thing that (the student) is going to be able to tell you is that she’s walking along a roadway and she doesn’t know what roadway it is, she doesn’t know where she is, she doesn’t know how she got there, she’s lost,” Pepper said.

Canterbury was driving home to Gallipolis after visiting his girlfriend in OU’s James Hall, when, at about 2 a.m., he stopped to ask the girl if she was all right, Eachus said.

The female student asked Canterbury for a ride to Court Street, and got in his car. After that, the defense and prosecution claim different accounts as to what happened next.

According to the prosecution, the woman felt relieved to have a ride back to her dorm room, until Canterbury put his hand on her leg.

“She pulls away, he puts his hand back on her leg, he pulls into a parking lot,” Pepper told the jury adding that it was then that Canterbury raped the woman.

The prosecutor claimed that Canterbury then dropped the victim off on Court Street and called police to tell them he had just dropped off an intoxicated female.

“The defendant says she’s bleeding and we’re talking trauma blood … “ Pepper said. “That’s what (Canterbury) said.”

But Canterbury has denied “every element” of the rape charges, Eachus argued in his opening statement. The “awesome amount of blood” the prosecution is talking about was reported to have come from a fall off steps after the party, Eachus said.

The rest of the woman’s memory, she has admitted, has blank spots, Eachus told the jury. From the time she left the party — which was reported by some as closer to 10 p.m. and by others as closer to midnight — until the time she came in contact with Canterbury, she does not remember what happened.

“It’s either four and a half or two and a half hours that she cannot account for, or won’t account for,” Eachus claimed.

When she came into contact with Canterbury, it was when he stopped to make sure she was okay. When she asked for a ride and got in the car, he took her to Peden Stadium and other locations to provide reference points for her to tell him where to go, Eachus continued.

“What took place inside that car was not rape, he did not rape her,” Eachus told the jury. In fact, Canterbury called police and showed concern for her, he argued.

“Immediately after she got out of the car, he called 911,” Eachus said. “If he raped her, why would he call 911?”

Eachus told the jury his client has cooperated with police, went to the police station when an interview was requested, and did not fight extradition from Texas after he was arrested in the case. Canterbury was deployed to El Paso, Texas., as a member of the National Guard and voluntarily gave a DNA sample as well, Eachus told the jury.

According to opening arguments, the woman did not have a rape kit conducted when she went to the hospital the following day.

“A rape kit would probably have determined this case,” Eachus argued in his statements.

But after talking to family who encouraged her to involve the police, less than a week later, “she had to go through it all again,” Pepper said.

The DNA sample allegedly showed semen and DNA from Canterbury on the victim’s underwear, Pepper showed in a powerpoint slide of the sample results. The results will be discussed further in the trial, but in her opening statement, Pepper said the results showed a very rare likelihood that anyone other than Canterbury raped the woman.

“This is not a case of ‘he said, she said,’ this is a case where (the woman) will tell you that he raped her, and it is a case where the (Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation) report says that the defendant raped her,” Pepper said.

Before opening statements, the jurors were taken around to all the locations pertaining to the night Canterbury and the woman were together.

The trial will continue on Tuesday.