A Clinton County courtroom was the scene of chaos this afternoon following a jury’s verdict in a retrial that found a Clinton man not guilty of third-degree sex abuse.
The seven-woman, five-man jury returned the verdict in favor of David DeSimone shortly after 1:30 p.m., a little more than two hours after it was turned over to jurors for deliberation. DeSimone, now 53, was accused of sexually assaulting a 17-year-old female on Oct. 16, 2004. While he was convicted of the same charge in 2005 and sentenced to up to 15 years in prison, that conviction was thrown out late last year by the Iowa Supreme Court, which ruled Assistant Clinton County Attorney Ross Barlow did not disclose evidence that would have discredited part of a witness’ testimony and ordered a retrial. Attorneys Scott Brown and Denise Timmins, from the Iowa Attorney General’s Office prosecuted the case in the trial that began Monday.
DeSimone appeared surprised by the verdict, throwing his head back and muttering in disbelief after Clinton County District Court Judge Mark Cleve read the not guilty verdict. Instantly, family and friends of the alleged victim stood up in the courtroom and started yelling obscenities at DeSimone as court security guards ran in to hold them back to prevent them from lunging at DeSimone. The defendant, visibly shaken, was escorted out of the courtroom.
“I hope you guys regret this,” one woman yelled at the jury. “He’s guilty.”
Another woman yelled out about how DeSimone’s alleged action had destroyed her family.
After the alleged victim’s family and friends left the courtroom, the jury was pulled back into its courtroom seats as extra security was called in to ensure jury members’ safety. An ambulance also was called to the courthouse to assist one woman who was in medical distress after the verdict was read.
Jurors throughout the week heard testimony from the alleged victim, friends and witnesses who were at the house where the alleged attack occurred or who saw her at Hy-Vee where she called police; officers; medical personnel and the defendant.
The prosecution had maintained throughout the trial that the accuser had been drinking at a party at DeSimone’s residence in the 1100 block of Camanche Avenue the evening of Oct. 16, 2004. She awoke early the next morning in DeSimone’s bed on her back, naked. According to her, the overhead light was on and DeSimone was standing in the room with a blanket around his shoulder. She told the court that when he realized she was waking up, the defendant flipped the light off and jumped on top of her and she realized he had no clothing on. She said that she tried to fight, pushing at him with her arms, and told him that the father of her son was going to “mess him up.” She then claimed he grabbed her by the throat and pushed his thumb under her jawline, telling her that no one would hear her scream. At that point, she quit fighting him.
Afterward she dressed and fled from the residence. The alleged victim told the court that she headed east on Camanche Avenue by foot and tried to stop two vehicles for help, but they did not stop. She ran to Hy-Vee, because she saw it was still open.
She spoke to a worker there and used the store’s phone to call a friend and 911. Police testified they executed a search warrant at DeSimone’s residence at approximately noon, but were delayed because the address on the warrant was wrong since DeSimone lived upstairs at 1143 1⁄2 Camanche Ave. Officers waited until the warrant was corrected.
Scott Stockleger, a forensic scientist specializing in DNA testing at the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation lab in Ankeny, testified that he reviewed items for the case looking for DNA evidence. He reviewed a swab and smear from a rape kit looking for sperm or seminal fluid for the case. He did not find any.
Joe Baker testified that he did see the alleged victim in DeSimone’s bed the morning of Oct. 17, 2004. He had been at the party for his then-girlfriend Ashley Zmuda and also testified he drank a lot that night. Baker testified to being very intoxicated and falling asleep on the couch. Sometime early morning on Oct. 17, 2004, he woke up and decided to leave, and headed to DeSimone’s bedroom for his coat. He testified that DeSimone opened his bedroom door and was inside the room with the alleged victim, who appeared to be asleep, fully clothed.
Wednesday afternoon the defense began its case by calling Nichole Long to the stand. Long testified that she met the alleged victim in July 2005 through a mutual friend and began socializing with her a couple times a month. In August 2005, Long told police that she and the alleged victim were driving along Camanche Avenue one night when the alleged victim pointed out a house and said she was raped there in October 2004. Long said that reminded her that around the same time, she almost hit a young woman crossing Camanche Avenue when she was driving home from work at Burger King, at approximately 2 or 2:30 a.m. She testified that they put two and two together and realized it must have been the alleged victim that Long almost hit.
During testimony Wednesday, the defense questioned police officer Brian Pohl, who testified an e-mail he received from the Burger King corporate office showed Long punched out at 3:30 a.m., after the alleged victim was at Hy-Vee and had called 911.
DeSimone testified in his defense, answering “No, I did not,” when he was asked if he raped the alleged victim, had any sexual relations with her or choked her.
DeSimone also testified that there were some altercations at the party and that he was injured in the second one, causing him to tell everyone to leave his home. He then went downstairs to watch them leave and make sure no one damaged any of his property. In a long narrative, DeSimone claimed that when he finally went back upstairs he found the alleged victim having sexual relations with Baker. DeSimone said he went to his bedroom at that time. Desimone testified Baker woke him that morning when it was daylight to use his phone and DeSimone went back to bed. He said his cousin came to do laundry in his basement while he was sleeping and police arrived with the search warrant shortly after.