Jury gets case in West Chester rape trial
WEST CHESTER >> The jury hearing the trial of a Gettysburg man accused of raping a West Chester University student while she slept began deliberations in the case Thursday.
The panel of nine women and three men were handed the case by Common Pleas Judge Patrick Carmody around 6 p.m. after listening to closing arguments and several hours worth of defense testimony on the fourth day of the trial. No decision was reported at press time.
What they did not hear was the defendant’s side of the story. At the start of the day but out of the jury’s presence, Tyler Hogan Lampe told Carmody that he had considered taking the stand tell the jury his version of events the night of the incident, but had decided “to continue to not testify.”
When Carmody asked Lampe and his lead attorney, Arthur Donato of Media, whether the decision to give up that right was made knowingly, voluntarily, and intelligently, the two said it was. “We’ve had a lot of conversations with Tyler and his family,” Donato said. “It was a very thorough discussion.”
Lampe, 22, of Gettysburg, is charged with rape of an unconscious person and sexual assault, both felonies, indecent assault, and aggravated indecent assault. He has been free on bail since his arrest in July 2016, four months after the alleged assault. A former member of the West Point Black Knights football team at the U.S. Military Academy, he is currently on administrative leave from the prestigious school.
Carmody on Thursday dismissed an additional charge of rape by forcible compulsion at the request of the defense team, agreeing that because the woman was allegedly asleep during the incident there was insufficient evidence to show that Lampe used
force in having sex with her.
His attorneys have contended that what occurred between him and the woman was consensual sex between two intoxicated young people, and have suggested that the woman might have been too inebriated to remember consenting to be with Lampe.
Addressing the jury, Donato said that the case boiled down to the “hazy memory” of the woman, a Malvern native who was a sophomore at the university that spring, and “drunken sex” between two young people after a night of partying.
“None of these kids are lying,” Donato said, referring to the woman, her two roommates, and two friends of Lampe’s called to testify about what happened that night. “They’re just kids. But none of them are really sure.”
Donato, who represented Lampe along with attorneys Caroline Donato and Peter Kratsa of the firm of MacElree Harvey in West Chester, said the jury should find his client not guilty because the evidence against him was sketchy and weak and did not meet the standard of proof. He reminded them that the woman had given an incomplete version of events that night, and could easily have been “blacked out” during the incident.
“We will never know what happened in that room,” he said. “But it is not fair to convict someone just because you feel sympathy or empathy for one person or another. You can’t guess. Because if you guess wrong, you are going to convict an innocent person.”
But First Assistant District Attorney Michael Noone, who prosecuted the case with Assistant District Attorney Alexis Shaw and West Chester Detective Stan Billie, argued that the woman’s version of events had been corroborated on multiple occasions by multiple sources. She could remember significant portions of what happened the night in question, and promptly told people around her that “something bad” had happened to her while she slept.
Noone praised the woman for showing “courage and strength” in coming forward with the allegations, and for undergoing the “trauma” of the trial.
“There is not a shred of evidence to show that this is consensual sex,” he told the jurors in his closing. “He did it. We’ve proven our case. He’s got to be held responsible.”
Noone pointed especially to a telephone conversation between the two that was tape recorded by Billie a month or so after St. Patrick’s Day, during which he apologized several times for what happened the night but insisted he could not remember any details,
“If there was no way he raped her, I submit he would have said, ‘No, I didn’t rape you. But that’s not what we heard. But when he was under the influence of alcohol, there were things he did that he wouldn’t do when he was sober, and that he would be sorry for later on. That is what rape looks like in America.”
The woman reported to police that she had gone to sleep in her room on the third floor of an apartment house on South High Street sometime after 1 a.m. the morning after St. Patrick’s Day in 2016, intoxicated after a night of drinking at her home and a fraternity party near the WCU campus. She had not taken off her clothes before collapsing in bed, she said but awoke naked and with Lampe on top of her, having sex. The two had met only hour before, as he was in town from West Point visiting one of her roommates from Gettysburg.
The Daily Local News is withholding the name of the woman because of the nature of the charges. The newspaper does not identify those who claim to have been sexually assaulted unless they give their permission.
On Thursday, the defense called 16 witnesses on Lampe’s behalf, 12 of them character witnesses who know him and vouched for his reputation for peacefulness, law abiding, and good moral character. The group included his parents, Jeffrey and Deborah Lampe, as well as people from his hometown of Gettysburg and some military personnel, befitting his status as a West Point cadet.
All agreed, however, that none of them were present in the bedroom of the woman who has said she was sexually assaulted over the St. Patrick’s Day evening in 2016.
The liveliest testimony Thursday came from a childhood friend of Lampe, who disputed the testimony of one of the woman’s roommates, Nora Hughes, about a conversation after Lampe was interrupted while he was having sex with her.
Kobi Wansel, who said he had known Lampe since the fifth grade, said that in the early morning hours of March 18, 2016, he received a Facetime call from their mutual friend, Jake Myers, who was panicking and anxious.
“He was, like, Kobe, Nora is accusing Tyler of rape,” Wansel said under questioning by attorney Caroline Donato. “She was putting it into … Jake’s head. But Jake said, ‘No, I don’t think that.’”
The defense has suggested that Hughes instigated the notion of a sexual assault, and ultimately convinced the woman — who had said she did not remember much of what occurred after she went to sleep that night — that she had been raped.
Hughes testified earlier that she remembered Myers making the Facetime call, and telling his friend Wansel, “Tyler just raped (the woman).” In his testimony, Wansel disputed that, and hearing Myers say that Hughes was making the accusation, “is something that has stuck with me over the last two years.”
The defense also called a forensic DNA expert, Katherine Cross of Guardian Forensic Sciences of Abington, and Eliot Atkins, a forensic psychologist.
Atkins was called to testify about the possibility that the woman could have “blacked out” from overuse of alcohol that night. If so, she could have given Lampe signals when he came into her room indicating hat she wanted to have sex with him, but would have been unable to remember doing so. That would mitigate any intent to rape on Lampe’s part.
But Noone, in cross examining Atkins, noted that there was no evidence that the woman had “blacked out,” making Atkins’ theory a hypothetical. The woman testified that she remembered what had occurred that night, unlike other times when she had too much to drink and had blacked out entire nights.
Tyler Hogan Lampe