A man accused of raping a woman at Nashville hotel last year has been cleared of all charges.
A jury found Ryan D. Shehorn, 29, of Bargersville not guilty of Class B felony rape, Class D felony criminal confinement and Class B misdemeanor battery.
Jurors deliberated for about 36 minutes.
One of Shehorn’s attorneys, Andy Baldwin of Franklin, said being cleared of the charges provided his client “a small amount of vindication.”
“Ryan instructed our law firm at the beginning of his representation that he would never plead guilty and furthermore would not consider any plea agreements whatsoever because he was innocent,” Baldwin said in a statement.
On March 2, 2013, a woman told police she had been raped. She was taken to Columbus Regional Hospital for an examination.
Nashville Chief Deputy Ben Seastrom arrested Shehorn at his hotel room.
Chief Deputy Prosecutor Mary Wertz handled the state’s case. She said the woman traveled to Nashville to celebrate a friend’s birthday. The group of friends had dinner and drinks. While at a local bar, the group met Shehorn. The friends invited the stranger to accompany them to another bar for more drinks.
The accuser and a female friend went back to Shehorn’s room, where they continued to drink beer and wine.
‘Flashes of memory’
Wertz warned the jurors that there would be discrepancies about what happened. The woman had only “flashes of memory.”
Wertz said the friend left after Shehorn began taking off his pants. The accuser did not leave at the same time. When she did try to leave, Shehorn reportedly blocked the door and threatened to hurt her. She said she could not call her friend because her cellphone was dead. She again tried leaving, but Shehorn would not let her, Wertz told jurors.
Wertz said the woman then decided to play along in order to protect herself from getting hurt or killed. She remembered Shehorn’s hands all over her and the harshness of his beard as he held her down.
Wertz said the woman left after Shehorn went to sleep. She left in his coat. She could not find her vehicle. She flagged down a passing motorist and told him that she had been raped. She repeated the claim on a message left on her friend’s voice mail.
When confronted by police, Shehorn denied having sex, but he said he may have blacked out from excessive drinking.
DNA evidence tested at the Indiana State Police lab showed Shehorn and the woman had sex.
Baldwin told jurors several different versions of what the accuser had said happened, including to what extent she participated during intercourse.
Baldwin said the motive to lie was fear of losing her boyfriend of more than a year and her friends because she had slept with Shehorn after they had been trying to set him up with one of their friends.
“That’s the motive. Very simple,” he said.
Police ineptitude alleged
Baldwin also attacked the police investigation. He said police did not interview people he considered key to the case. He said no DNA testing was done on the bed sheet. He added that police knew of contradictions in the accounts of what happened and did nothing to clear them up.
Baldwin questioned why a friend would abandon a friend with a stranger. He said the friend who accompanied the woman to Shehorn’s room told police that, when she was leaving, the accuser was with Shehorn taking her boots off.
“The Brown County prosecutor’s office failed, as they often do, to simply look at the evidence before filing such horrific, life-altering criminal charges against an innocent man,” Baldwin said.
Prosecutor: Not sorry
Wertz could not be reached for comment after the trial. Prosecutor Jim Oliver spoke about the case.
“We are not sorry we brought the case. It was the right thing to do,” he said.
“We wish there had been some evidence that could have given the jury enough to convict.”
Oliver said when the outcome relies on one person’s word against another, proving a case beyond a reasonable doubt can be difficult.
“A jury must believe the accusations absolutely, and the jury in this case did not have that kind of proof,” Oliver said.
Baldwin said Shehorn is considering taking legal action because of damage to his reputation.
“Ryan Shehorn is considering all of his legal options, including civil lawsuits against the individuals who falsely accused him, as well as the prosecutor’s office and police agencies who failed to do their jobs,” Baldwin said.