Defendant Adam Smith (on witness stand) was found not guilty Friday on charges of rape photo by Mark Lovewell

Defendant Adam Smith (on witness stand) was found not guilty Friday on charges of rape

The Vineyard Gazette
Friday, October 6, 2017
Sara Brown

A California man was found not guilty by a Dukes County superior court jury Friday on charges of rape, indecent assault and battery and intimidation of a witness.

Adam M. Smith, 29, of Berkeley, Calif., was in tears waiting for the verdict in the Edgartown courthouse Friday. He hugged his family after the verdict was read by Dukes County superior court clerk Joseph E. Sollitto Jr.

Defense attorney J. Drew Segadelli outside Edgartown courthouse following verdict. — Mark Lovewell
“Sir, you are free to go,” Judge Gary A. Nickerson told Mr. Smith.

A jury of eight men and four women deliberated for about an hour and a half before returning the verdict.

“I’ve known my client was innocent from the start and the jury found it that way in short order, which speaks to the evidence,” defense attorney J. Drew Segadelli said after the verdict.

He said it had been a hard ordeal for Mr. Smith’s family, who were in the courtroom throughout the trial.

Steve Sylvester, a Smith family friend who also attended the trial, said there was an offer to settle the case but his family supported Mr. Smith’s decision to go to trial.

“His decision was to clear his name,” Mr. Sylvester said. “He cleared his name.”

The four-day trial opened Tuesday and included testimony from witnesses on both sides.

The initial indictment of three counts of rape and one count of intimidation of a witness was changed during the trial to one count of rape, one count of indecent assault and battery, and intimidation of a witness.

The case dated to Labor Day weekend in 2015, when Mr. Smith was on the Vineyard for a bachelor party. A woman visiting the Island with two friends met Mr. Smith at the Seafood Shanty and went back to the Katama rental home where he and the other men were staying, according to court testimony.

Cape and Islands assistant district attorney Michael Patterson at trial. — Mark Lovewell
It is Gazette policy not to name alleged victims of sexual assault.

The woman, now 32, took the stand Wednesday. She said she and Mr. Smith went to an upstairs bedroom, where she said they made out and then he allegedly assaulted her. The woman said she said no and tried to scoot away, and that she later left the room, took a wrong turn, and walked by the bedroom, at which point she said Mr. Smith threatened her and told her not to tell anyone.

Mr. Smith took the stand Thursday morning and refuted that account, saying their activity was consensual and he never threatened her. He said he told other men at the bachelor party that he was dumbfounded by what happened.

The alleged victim’s friends and police officers testified that the woman left the house upset and was afraid to talk to the police when they were later called. She was transported to the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital in an ambulance, according to testimony.

Several men who attended the bachelor party said Mr. Smith told them after the incident that they had been having a consensual encounter when the alleged victim got upset and left.

Mr. Smith’s family was sitting in the front row in the courtroom Friday morning during closing arguments. The alleged victim was also in the courtroom.

Prosecutor Michael Patterson, an assistant Cape and Islands district attorney, said in his closing argument that on the night in question, the alleged victim went from happy and carefree to hysterical, crying, and not responsive. “What happened in that bedroom,” he said, arguing that her behavior matched with what the alleged victim said happened.

“No means no, stop means stop,” he said. “[The alleged victim] made perfectly clear to the defendant that she did not consent to the act that he forced upon her.”

During his closing arguments, Mr. Segadelli emphasized Mr. Smith’s account of the night, including that he and the alleged victim were upstairs when she got upset and left.

Mr. Segadelli pointed to what he said were gaps and inconsistencies in the alleged victim’s memories from that night, and tests that showed she had more than twice the blood alcohol content limit for driving. He also said there was no evidence to point to assault or that Mr. Smith held the alleged victim down.

“The evidence is overwhelming as to what happened that night and what didn’t happen that night,” he said. “And one man is telling the truth.”

Heather Hamacek contributed reporting.