A former college student in Wisconsin has been found not guilty of sexually assaulting a woman in a dorm, despite telling friends in a group text message that he did.
Nicholas Ralston — who was ultimately expelled from the University of Wisconsin-Madison — was acquitted more than two years after he was charged with third-degree sexual assault, after his roommate's girlfriend reported he assaulted her in a dorm room after a night of drinking.
The woman told police that she fell asleep with her boyfriend in his room around 1 a.m. on April 18, 2015. She said she woke up two hours later to Ralston placing her hand on his penis, and his penis in her mouth.
The woman reported that because she was half asleep it took her some time to realize what was happening, and that when she did, she got up, returned to her room, and called her mother — who urged her to contact police.
Police officers who arrived spoke to Ralston, who said he didn't remember sexually assaulting the woman, but that if she said it happened, "that it must be true" because she is "a trustworthy person," according to a criminal complaint filed in Dane County Circuit Court.
Ralston, 22, also told officers he had consumed 12 beers that night, but wasn't blackout drunk because he "knows his alcohol limit" — which he said is 14 beers, the complaint stated.
According to the complaint, prosecutors said a friend who was there that night also told an investigator that when he asked Ralston if he was blackout drunk, he responded:
"No, I kind of knew that I was doing," adding, "I didn't think I could do that."
Ralston also sent a group text message later in the day repeating that he had assaulted the woman and would be moving to a different dormitory, prosecutors said.
However, during the trial, defense attorney Adam Welch argued that Ralston didn't know exactly what happened that night because he had been drinking, the Wisconsin State Journal reported. Welch told jurors that his client only admitted to the assault because he trusted what the woman said was true.
"Nick trusted [the woman] and believed her," Welch said during the trial, according to the Daily Cardinal. "That’s not a confession. It’s good character."
Welch argued that the woman was also too intoxicated to clearly remember what happened that night, and pointed out that there was a lack of physical evidence.
Welch told BuzzFeed News "the acquittal speaks for itself," and that he didn't have anything else to add.
When reached for comment the University of Wisconsin-Madison said Ralston was expelled in 2015 and did not provide further comment.
The jury — comprised of eight women and four men — found him not guilty on July 26 after two hours of deliberations, the Wisconsin State Journal reported.
Mary Ann Georgantopoulos is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
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