A Pulaski County jury Wednesday rejected a Sherwood teenager's rape accusations against a 30-year-old North Little Rock man.
With no physical evidence to back up the claims, the 10 women and two men deliberated about 40 minutes to declare Brandon K.T. Hudson innocent, ending his two-day rape trial before Circuit Judge Chris Piazza. Rape is a Class Y felony that carries a potential life sentence.
"That never happened," said Hudson, who had been the boyfriend of the teen's mother.
Hudson, who spent more than an hour on the witness stand Wednesday, testified that the accuser, now 18, had lied to police when she said he attacked her in June 2017. The father of two, a gym owner and career National Guardsman called the accusations "mind blowing" and that nothing sexual had ever gone on between them.
The college freshman testified that when she was 15, Hudson got in her bed in the middle of the night, saying he wanted to show her pictures of engagement rings for her mother, who was out of the house getting her hair done. She said Hudson then forced her to perform a series of sex acts and told her he loved her. He apologized and left after she started crying, she said.
Hudson told jurors that the teen resented his efforts to be a "father figure" and to bring structure to the household during his five-year relationship with the teen's mother. She grew to hate him for twice cheating on her mother in the days after the mother had given birth to their son and resisted his effort to get back together with the mother.
Hudson said he deeply regretted his unfaithfulness and had moved out of the house but was focused on wooing her mother back and regaining the trust of parent and daughter. But the teen was dead set against him, regularly complaining to her mother about him, at least once to the point where her mother punished her for it, Hudson told jurors.
He said he would have married the mother if the teen had not accused him, effectively severing his relationship with her mother. He was arrested in June 2018, almost a year after the teen went to police.
Defense attorney Bill James denounced the accusations as "lies," telling jurors that if Hudson had done what the girl said he had, he would have left some trace of evidence behind yet no DNA was found.
"Other than her saying it [rape] happened, there's no proof," James said in his closing statement. "The story she's telling is crazy. He would have to be some sort of maniac to do this. Common sense tells you he didn't do this."
Even the teen's mother did not believe her, James said, describing the accuser as a "disgruntled young lady" who despised Hudson and wanted him out of her mother's life. Her anger at Hudson was further compounded by how she resented her mother forcing her to regularly baby-sit her younger siblings, the attorney said.
James, with co-counsel Megan Wilson, also questioned why the girl had waited a week before going to police with her story, even as Hudson continued to be a regular visitor to the family home.
James prefaced his final remarks by reading from the teen's journal, telling jurors that an entry that sounded like an affirmation was actually a declaration of war on Hudson who she thought was standing in her way.
"'I ... declare I will not let anyone else get in the way of my happiness,'" James said, reading from an excerpt that was shown to jurors. "She wanted to be an adult and to do what she wanted to do. Every day, she's complaining about Brandon, every day she's complaining about her mother ... she's declared she's going to get anyone who gets in her way."
James said the teen's version of events, as described in the diary, did not exactly match what she told police or what she had described in her two-plus hours of testimony Tuesday.
The girl's word alone was sufficient proof of Hudson's guilt, prosecutors said.
"If you believe her, he's guilty," deputy prosecutor Katie Hinojosa told jurors.
To doubt her was to believe she was a "15-year-old mastermind" who had cooked up an elaborate lie to frame Hudson then spend almost 2½ years following through with it. Discrepancies in the teen's stories were natural and to be expected, given that so much time has passed and that she was trying to recall such a horrendous event, Hinojosa said.
"She's telling you about trauma ... about rape ... by a man who said he wanted to be a father-figure to her," deputy prosecutor Matt Stauffer said.
Her decision, at age 15, to wait a week before going to authorities makes sense, he said. The accusations would tear up her family, and she knew her mother wouldn't believe her so she waited until she could get to someone who would, her father, who took her to authorities, the prosecutor said. The girl moved out of her mother's house after telling police and never returned.
"There's nothing she gained from this except she didn't have to live with a rapist," Stauffer said.
Metro on 01/16/2020