Jason Lee found not guilty of raping Irish student in US
Ex-banker acquitted of three charges - first degree rape, sexual misconduct and assault
Former Goldman Sachs banker Jason Lee arrives at Suffolk County Court with his wife Alicia on Wednesday afternoon for the verdict in his trial for rape. He was found not guilty. Photograph: Simon Carswell
A former Goldman Sachs banker has been acquitted of raping an Irish J-1 student at a summer party in the Hamptons in August 2013.
New York State Judge Barbara Kahn found Jason Lee (38) not guilty of first-degree rape, sexual misconduct and third-degree assault on the woman at a party at his rented house early on August 20th, 2013 in East Hampton, a resort popular with wealthy New Yorkers.
Mr Lee had denied the charges, claiming that he had consensual sex with the then 20-year-old woman. She had been working in another US state on a summer J-1 working visa and was visiting her brother in nearby Long Island resort of Montauk before she returned to Ireland.
Prosecutors claimed that the former banker barged into a downstairs bathroom as the student was changing after swimming in a pool at the house and that he pinned her to the ground and raped her.
The judge said that proving the charges against Mr Lee beyond a reasonable doubt was a “heavy burden” and that the prosecution had failed to so.
She said she had been deprived of an opportunity to hear from “an important witness,” the alleged victim’s brother who refused to travel from Ireland to testify because, the prosecution said, he had final-year exams and the offer of a six-month job in London.
The Irish student and her friend both travelled to give evidence in court. The student testified that her brother would do anything to help her but that he couldn’t travel to the court because of exams.
The trial, which took place over three weeks, was heard by a judge rather than a jury, at Mr Lee’s request, in a court in Suffolk County, an area that covers the Hamptons, about 130km from Manhattan.
Mr Lee declined to comment as he left the court. His lawyer Edward Burke Jr told reporters that it was “a false accusation.”
“We were deeply troubled that this matter went this far,” he said. “The evidence was clear from day one and it took the judge less than 24 hours to render a verdict and to dismiss all of these charges.”
Thomas Spota, Suffolk County district attorney, said that prosecutors made “every effort possible” to urge the brother to testify.
“He gave us excuses, which I believe to be so with respect to his education, and he chose not to come forward,” he said.
“I don’t think that really hurt the case at all quite frankly because the judge had the grand jury minutes and she had the statement of the brother that was introduced into evidence.”
Mr Lee, who appeared in court with his wife, was escorted from the court by two police officers and left in a black jeep driven by a man.
Prosecutor Kerriann Kelly told the judge during the trial that the brother’s education would be “detrimentally harmed” if he left Ireland to testify at the trial and that he was contractually bound to start a job after his studies were completed.
On the first day of the trial, the court heard the brother’s voice in a recording of a 911 call to police made by Mr Lee’s friend who was concerned about his car, a $60,000 SUV, believing it had been stolen.
The brother took the phone from Mr Lee’s friend, telling the police dispatcher: “I have got another situation I need to sort out, a more important situation than a truck [CAR].”
The judge heard that when a police office arrived, the brother urged her to talk to her sister about something that happened in the house.
Prosecutors said that the female student told East Hampton police officer Sarah Mortensen in her car that the “Chinese man” had raped her. Officer Mortensen later noticed that Mr Lee had disappeared.
He was later found by police hiding curled up in a foetal position in the backseat of his Range Rover, parked in the driveway of the house.
The court heard that during the two and a half hours he was hiding he made or sent 49 calls and text messages including to taxi companies, his friend in the house, another friend and to Goldman Sachs.
The court was also told that the student’s brother saw his sister and Mr Lee exiting the downstairs bathroom after the alleged assault.
Andrew Lankler, Mr Lee’s attorney, speculated in his closing statement to the court on Tuesday, that the brother’s decision not to testify may have had something to due with him not being able to “handle” his sister having “a sexual liaison with an older man of Asian descent.”