ITHACA, N.Y. — A jury has acquitted Tompkins County Sheriff’s Deputy Scott Walters of all charges, including rape and sexual abuse.
Walters, 34, was indicted on charges of first-degree rape and sexual abuse, and the jury also considered attempted rape. He was originally charged in 2017 along with another man, Matthew Pinney, who with a plea deal, ended up being a witness in Walters’ trial. He was accused of raping a woman who could not consent because she was physically helpless and possibly drugged.
On Wednesday after several notes to Judge John C. Rowley, who was presiding over the case, jurors came back at about 4:30 p.m. and said they found Walters not guilty of all charges.
YOUR LOCAL CRIME AND COURTS NEWS IS MADE POSSIBLE WITH SUPPORT FROM:
“We’re just glad that the truth came out,” defense attorney Veronica Gorman said after the verdict Wednesday.
Gorman said Walters is feeling relieved following the verdict. “Unfortunately because the accusation was made, he’s always going to have to live under an air of suspicion … to some extent just like his identity here became Deputy Scott Walters charged with a crime. Part of his identity is going to be the person that went to trial. So, my fear is that people will not acknowledge the jury process and the fact that a jury of his peers acquitted him and they’ll just hang on the fact that he was accused, which is unfortunate in today’s society.”
Last week, the jury heard testimony from the victim, Walters, Pinney, experts, friends and family members, related to an alleged incident in February 2013. A jury spent part of Monday and all day Wednesday deliberating — for more than 11 hours — before coming to a decision.
Following the verdict, Schuyler County District Attorney Joseph Fazzary, who was special prosecutor, said this was a difficult case for jurors to deliberate.
“You have the victim who came forward four-and-a-half years later. … Obviously, you want people to come forward immediately but we also recognize the fact that that doesn’t happen because the vast majority of sexual abuse victims don’t ever come forward. I trust in the system. I understand that we’re asking 12 jurors to make a decision on some limited information.”
Fazzary said he accepts the jurors’ decision and does not think he could have done anything different to change their minds. “There were just some questions that they had,” Fazzary said.
Pinney was a key witness in the trial and testified last week that he had “sexual intercourse” with the woman while she was out of it. When asked by Fazzary during questioning if she asked him to do that, he replied, “No.” Pinney told jurors that he had lied when he had said in previous court proceedings that he had consensual sex with her. Pinney’s testimony and whether it should be considered credible was a key part of closing arguments Monday.
In exchange for testifying at Walters’ trial, Pinney is receiving a plea deal. He will plead guilty to attempted forcible touching and reckless endangerment, both misdemeanors. Fazzary said he is due in court to plead to those charges in October.
Asked why he decided to offer that plea deal, Fazzary said Wednesday, “In my mind, the person who orchestrated this was Scott Walters. As much as (defense attorney Veronica Gorman) said during the trial this is just Scott Walters, just the person Scott Walters, not the police officer, I was looking at it the entire time saying if he did this, he cannot be a police officer any longer.”
Jurors began deliberating before 9 a.m. Wednesday and throughout the day had several notes for the court, including asking for testimony to be read back. At one point, jurors told the judge they did not believe they could come to a unanimous decision, but Rowley sent them back to try to continue deliberations.
Walters declined to comment outside the Tompkins County Courthouse after the verdict.