Levi Canterbury, 23, of Gallipolis, spoke those words when he was asked by investigators if he ever had sex, consensual or otherwise, with an Ohio University student who is claiming that he raped her in September of 2011. And, in a text with an ex-girlfriend, Canterbury suggested the student may have actually been raped by someone else.
Canterbury’s comment regarding sexual contact was made to police during an interview that was partially recorded after the incident, and was presented Thursday in Athens County Common Pleas Court as part of day four of the trial.
Prosecutors claim that Canterbury picked up the intoxicated student after she became lost after she left a party. He allegedly drove her to a parking lot, raped her and then dropped her off near campus.
Ohio University Police Department Detective Michael Swearingen testified that he assisted in the investigation, and he was on the stand when the prosecution played the recorded interview.
In the interview, recorded outside Canterbury’s grandmother’s residence in Gallipolis, Canterbury talked to police for about 30 minutes about what had happened that night. He told them he had picked a girl up on Route 682 and asked her where she needed to go. He took her to Peden Stadium’s parking lot, he said in the interview, and she still didn’t know where she was.
“I noticed she didn’t have any freaking pants on to begin with,” Canterbury told police in the interview.
When police told him they were investigating a report that the girl had been raped, Canterbury said that’s what he “had heard.”
Canterbury gave a simple answer when lead investigator Tim Ryan asked him whether he had had sex with the girl he picked up that night in September 2011.
“No, sir,” Canterbury said.
Swearingen testified that the battery in the recorder failed, which resulted in only the first eight minutes of the interview being recorded.
The man accused of two counts of rape denied ever having touched the woman in a sexual way, Swearingen said. He said he “may have” touched the woman on the thigh and “jokingly asked for a kiss,” mentioning he was in the military and leaving soon.
Swearingen also told the court that the case file showed that semen was found in the woman’s underwear.
On cross-examination, defense attorney Jeff Finley asked about the specifics of the investigator’s questions of sexual contact.
“Sex is sex,” Swearingen said. “We figured he knew what we were asking him.”
Despite previous testimony by the complaining witness and people who were with her that night about her having consumed alcohol, Canterbury told police the woman was not overly intoxicated and was making rational decisions, according to Swearingen’s testimony.
When asked about the blood on the seat of his vehicle, Canterbury described it and said it looked like a hip injury.
Canterbury told the police that after he dropped the woman off, he went to a restaurant on Court Street and got water and napkins to clean blood from the seat of his car. But when police talked to his grandmother, she told them she had mixed a bleach solution he used to clean the seat.
“He said ‘I forgot to tell you about that,’” Swearingen told the jury.
Swearingen said he conducted follow-up interviews, including one with Ashley Spencer, an ex-girlfriend of Canterbury.
Spencer testified on Thursday as well, telling jurors about spending the evening with Canterbury before he left on Sept. 9, 2011.
Spencer lived in James Hall and had been visited “frequently” by her boyfriend in the last few months before the incident. He came to visit this time because it was the last time he would be able to before he was deployed.
“We were supposed to get drunk and have sex,” Spencer said, testifying that Canterbury brought alcohol with him and they drank in her dorm room after getting dinner and walking around campus. Spencer was 19 at the time.
She said Canterbury was mixing the drinks for her and she began to feel “the drunkest (she’d) ever been.” She began to get sick before they could have sex, Spencer said. He stayed with her for a little while before leaving to go to the restroom.
She said she heard him start “flirting” with the resident assistant and she yelled for him. The RA, Molly Nocheck, testified that she had come out of her room to ask the man to be quiet.
“He said you have to be nice to me because I’m being deployed,” Nocheck said, adding that hearing that he was in the military made her “pause and reconsider asking him to be quiet,” she told the court.
Her identification of Canterbury, though, was stricken from the record when she said “I think it’s him.”
When Canterbury came back into Spencer’s room, he stayed a little longer and then decided to leave, according to testimony on Thursday. Later that night Spencer texted with Canterbury and Canterbury told her that he had picked up a woman and that she had told him she had been raped.
Spencer later received a crime alert about a rape alleged to have happened on Sept. 9.
“I thought, ‘Oh my God, this sounds a lot like what he told me on the phone that night,’” Spencer testified.
When she texted him, showing him the crime alert, she asked him if that was what the woman had told him.
“Well, basically (sic),” Canterbury responded, according to texts between the two shown to the jury.
After discussing the case with Canterbury, OUPD obtained a search warrant for his vehicle, an older-model Chevy Impala, which was given to the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation to process.
Special Agent Shane Henshaw processed the car, looking through the car from front to back. Despite Canterbury saying he had cleaned the passenger seat, Henshaw tested the seat and got positive results for “what appeared to be “blood” and “suspected semen” on the passenger seat. He took a cutting of the seat along with swabs of areas and gave the evidence to OUPD.
He did testing after he found the suspected semen, a “presumptive test” for semen, Henshaw testified.
“It was a very, very faint positive,” Henshaw said, noting that the result could mean a positive result or a false positive. In cross-examination, Henshaw explained that he takes the swabs and conducts initial testing, then sends it to law enforcement to decide if further testing should be conducted.
The trial continues on Friday. Lawyers said on Thursday they estimate the trial will continue into the middle of next week.