Attorney Claims Client Is A Victim Of Circumstances

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An attorney for a Michigan man accused of raping an Ohio University student claims her client is innocent, a victim of circumstances and is only being charged due to pressure on law enforcement.

Dedrick Peterson, 31, of Ann Arbor, Michigan, pleaded innocent Wednesday in Athens County Common Pleas Court to a 10-count felony indictment charging six counts of rape, three counts of sexual battery and one count of aggravated burglary. 

Peterson, a former member of the Ohio University Marching 110, is accused of raping another former member of band three times on Oct. 13, 2013, the weekend of that year's homecoming events for the university. Three of the rape counts allege that the rape occurred as the woman did not have the ability to consent due to the involvement of alcohol while the other three rape counts argue the alternative theory that force was used.

"I believe that my client, Dedrick Peterson, is basically a victim of circumstances because of the incredible media hype that's being created about sexual assault in this community," said attorney Susan Gwinn. 

Gwinn told Judge L. Alan Goldsberry that her client played in the band at the homecoming football game on Oct. 13, 2013, and then went to a party afterwards where he saw the alleged victim, a woman he knew prior. 

"These two people hooked up … She asked him for a ride home, directed him there, made a lot of suggestive comments to him on the way home, invited him in, they engaged in consensual intercourse and after the fact he gets a call from the police," Gwinn said. 

The attorney said Peterson cooperated with police, gave a DNA sample and was told the woman was not alleging rape, "just that she didn't remember everything" that had happened. 

"That's the end of the story and that should have been the end of the story except for the fact that we happen to have that same weekend an event at Chase Bank where it's nationally displayed across the country of two students engaged in some kind of sexual relationship and a group then forms called the F–kRapeCulture that then starts having protests, putting pressure on police, the prosecutor and various people saying that they're not handling sexual assault cases right and the next thing we know, one year after Mr. Peterson … is contacted by the county prosecutor's office," Gwinn said. 

Gwinn said Peterson was interviewed again for three hours and asked to speak with the prosecutor. She said he was told to come back the next day, Oct. 7, and he could speak with the prosecution. 

"He comes in the next day and he's arrested by 10 law enforcement officers," she said, continuing that she believes Peterson has currently been incarcerated illegally, alleging no charges had been filed since his arrest on Oct. 7.

"These allegations are based upon a consensual relationship that he had with a member of the band of Ohio University," Gwinn said. "He is no danger to anyone."

Athens County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn, however, said Peterson is a "danger to society," said similar crimes were committed elsewhere against two other women and asked that he be held on a $200,000 bond. 

Blackburn told Goldsberry that he intends to introduce evidence that shows Peterson was involved in a similar incident of sexual assault with a member of the Eastern Michigan University marching band. He said that in investigating that case, the prosecution was led to yet another woman living in Wisconsin who had a similar story about Peterson. 

"We believe he is a predator and a danger to society," Blackburn said. 

Blackburn told the court that Peterson was interviewed multiple times by law enforcement and lied about his contact with the woman. He said Peterson knew the investigation was going on and told two friends about the situation claiming that he had spoken to the woman after Oct. 13, 2013, and she had told him he didn't do anything wrong. Yet, Blackburn said Peterson told investigators he has not had contact with the woman since that night. Blackburn also said Peterson has lied about the type of sexual contact that happened with the woman.

The prosecutor said there is a strong case against Peterson and that he faces up to 44 years in prison. Added with the belief that Peterson is a danger to society, Blackburn again requested a $200,000 bond. Gwinn countered asking for Peterson to be released on his own recognizance.

"If this was so serious and so provable, why didn't the county prosecutor do something sooner than wait until the week at the height of the sexual assault awareness …" Gwinn asked. "I think this is a blown up case."

Goldsberry decided on a $150,000 bond and Peterson will be housed in the Southeastern Ohio Regional Jail unless the bond can be posted.

A trial is scheduled for Dec. 16.