Judge David Rees this morning reached a verdict in the sexual assault trial of Charles McGee and Aubre Dickson.
"I cannot conclude with moral certainty that the defendants are guilty," Rees said, finding both men not guilty on all counts shortly before noon on Friday. "Thus the state has not satisfied the burden that they prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt."
McGee, 33, the founder and former CEO of the Black Parent Initiative, and Dickson, 44, a former vice president at Key Bank and chairman of the state Housing Stability Council, were charged with sexually assaulting Erica Naito-Campbell, 38, on the night of May 10, 2012.
In announcing his verdict, Rees was brief, calling the trial "difficult and stressful" for all involved.
Following his verdict, Naito-Campbell ran from the court-room in tears, while supporters and family members of McGee and Dickson hugged, some sobbing with relief. One of them called out the word "justice," while Naito-Campbell's supporters and family members sat stunned, some of them crying tears of a different kind.
A seven-day trial of the men, both of whom waived their right to a jury trial, finished on the morning of March 21.
Neither defendant testified in the trial.
When the arguments concluded, the burden of proof was on the prosecution to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.
That was always going to be difficult because Naito-Campbell did not report the alleged assault to police or go to a hospital or doctor at the time she says it occurred. Given the lack of physical evidence or witnesses, the outcome turned on Rees' assessment of her account of that night.
Naito-Campbell first gave that account to WW for a story that ran Feb. 7, 2018.
Naito-Campbell said at the time she was coming forward nearly six years after the alleged assault because McGee had entered the race for an open seat on the Multnomah County Commission. (During the trial, notes from an intake meeting with a therapist named Lesley Alter on May 21, 2012, show that Naito-Campbell had long ago decided she would not report the alleged assault to police but she would come forward if either man ever decided to run for public office.)
Naito-Campbell told WW of meeting McGee and Dickson, both of whom she knew from a nine-month leadership training program, at the University Club downtown on May 10, 2012 for drinks.
From there, they crossed the Willamette River to a strip joint before moving on to McGee's home in Southeast Portland. There, Naito-Campbell said, things turned ugly.
As she testified at trial, first McGee and then both men allegedly assaulted her. She covered her vagina with her hands to keep them from penetrating her with their penises. At some point, she said, they stopped and she asked Dickson to drive her back downtown, where she'd left her car.
Three days later, phone records show, she made a 42-minute call to a rape crisis line. She soon after began telling close friends and family members what happened. Seven of those people testified at trial, recalling largely consistent accounts of what Naito-Campbell had told them about the alleged assault.
Prosecutors Amity Girt and Amanda Nadell produced an email that Dickson wrote to Naito-Campbell on June 7, 2012, expressing what appeared to be an apology for May 10.
"I haven't been the same since that night," Dickson wrote. "Can we at least grab coffee and talk? I want to make things right between us."
Then, prosecutors noted, Naito-Campbell wrote an email to WW in March 2013 about McGee, suggesting the newspaper "take a close look at him," because civic leaders were grooming him to run for office.
In October 2015, when McGee mused publicly about challenging then Commissioner Steve Novick for a Portland City Council seat, Naito-Campbell wrote to Dickson, whom she had once considered a friend, recounting the events of May 10, 2012 and encouraging Dickson to advise McGee not to run for office.
A few weeks later, McGee announced he would not run for Novick's seat.
But in the fall of 2017, McGee began raising money to run for an open Multnomah County Commission seat. He quickly raised about $30,000 from a blue-chip list of business and non-profit leaders.
McGee's actions caused Naito-Campbell to make good on her pledge to come forward if either man ever ran for office.
During the trial, however, McGee's attorney, Christine Mascal and Dickson's attorney, Stephen Houze, never addressed Naito-Campbell's consistently expressed motivation.
Instead, they kicked as much dirt on her as they could.
They blamed her for engaging in a frank discussion with the men at the University Club that night—she testified she'd told the men having a threesome was on her "bucket list," although not with either of them. They blamed her for drinking, for accompanying the men to a strip club, for going to McGee's home and scoffed at her claim she was able to stop them from penetrating her vagina with their penises (both men are considerably larger than Naito-Campbell).
They said she entered into an "unholy alliance" with WW and "plotted with a public relations consultant to "take her story national."
Houze read counseling records relating to her troubled relationships with the husband of her son and her own parents; implied without evidence that Naito-Campbell sent Dickson explicit photos of herself; and argued that she'd made up her story in a misguided attempt to sell a book and make herself a "poster child for the #metoo movement."
Mascal said whatever happened, Naito-Campbell was the instigator.
"They [McGee and Dickson] followed her lead," Mascal said. "She was drinking. She was dancing. She didn't leave the strip club. She chose to go in the house and continue the party. It was a drunken night with friends and that's all it was."
In fact, Mascal said, McGee was the real victim—in her closing argument, she compared him to Alonzo Tucker, a black man lynched in Oregon in 1902.
"The press called him a 'black fiend,'" Mascal told the court about Tucker. "He was shot and hanged."
Prosecutor Amity Girt said the defense's claims that Naito-Campbell had engaged in consensual sexual activity with the defendants and lied because of subsequent regrets was "ridiculous."
"If this were made up and a lie and the product of regretting the decisions she made, she could have fabricated a much better story," Girt told the court.
Multnomah County District Attorney Rod Underhill's office issued a statement expressing unhappiness with Rees' decision.
"We disagree and are very disappointed with today's verdict, but we respect and trust the criminal justice process afforded to everyone," the statement said. "We continue to believe the victim in this case who courageously came forward to report what happened to her in May 2012. Our unwavering commitment of supporting and advocating for survivors of sexual assault remains rooted in our core values. We stand shoulder-to-shoulder with all survivors of sexual assault. The Multnomah County District Attorney's Office ensures sexual assault victims are informed and supported at every step in the criminal justice process, even after a verdict. We remain committed to that duty."
Christine Mascal, McGee's attorney, declined to comment on the verdict. "I believe I said everything that needed to be said in my closing argument," Mascal said in a statement.
Stephen Houze, Dickson's attorney, didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.
After the verdict, Naito-Campbell said in a statement that she'd testified to exactly what happened the night in question.
"I told the truth, and that truth exists outside the bounds of a courtroom," Naito-Campbell said. "It exists for those other women who could not come forward publicly. And it exists in the hearts of all survivors who suffer a system that is designed to deny their humanity and their truth."