By Abby Wargo
A former Washington College student has been found not guilty of second degree rape and second degree sex offense of a current WC student.
Fope Fadojutimi, 18, was acquitted of the charges on Thursday, April 26 by a jury of nine men and three women in the Kent County Circuit Court. In Maryland, second degree rape charges as well as second degree sex offense charges carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
The alleged incident occurred in September 2016 on campus.
Fadojutimi was tried for a separate incident on Thursday, March 22 by a jury in Kent County Circuit Court. He was convicted of fourth degree sex offense of another former WC student. During the same trial, he was found not guilty of second degree rape, second degree sex offense, and second degree assault.
Fadojutimi was expelled from WC after three students reported him for sexual assault in September 2016. That December, he was charged as an adult, although he was 17 at the time of the alleged incident.
Paris Mercier, sophomore, gave permission to be identified in this article. Typically, The Elm does not name victims of alleged sexual assault, harassment, or misconduct.
In her testimony, Mercier told the jury that she met Fadojutimi on Sunday, Sept. 4, 2016 in her Resident Assistant’s room on campus. She and Fadojutimi “hit it off immediately,” so they exchanged phone numbers and continued to communicate over text for the next few days.
In the early morning hours of Monday, Sept. 5, 2016, Mercier and Fadojutimi “engaged romantically” in her dorm room, but Mercier decided that they “went too fast” and wanted to slow down. She discussed boundaries with Fadojutimi, and said that “sex was the ultimate boundary.”
On Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2016, Fadojutimi went to Mercier’s dorm room uninvited and allegedly sexually assaulted her.
Mercier testified to being “frozen” at first, but once she realized what was happening, she “told him ‘no’ more than five times,” directly addressed him by name, and told him he was hurting her in an attempt to get him to stop.
After she called her best friend to come over, and told her what had happened, they “discussed a plan of action.”
Mercier called the rape hotline RAINN, and her friend encouraged her to go to the Department of Public Safety to file a report. After Mercier called her friend’s mother, who was “unsupportive” of reporting the incident, Mercier decided not to file a report with Public Safety.
The next day, Mercier went to visit campus resources for help. She spoke to then Director of the Office of Wellness & Prevention Education, Lauren Gibson, as well as the Director of Counseling Services, Miranda Altman, and the Title IX Coordinator, Candace Wannamaker.
In late November 2016, Mercier reported the alleged incident to the Chestertown Police Department.
Under cross-examination from defense attorney George Oswinkle, Mercier reviewed nearly 50 pages of text messages between her and Fadojutimi. Oswinkle asked her what she had been wearing on the night of the alleged incident and why she had let him into her room in the first place.
She testified that she had set boundaries with Fadojutimi but that those didn’t stop him, she was “still assaulted.”
“Letting anyone into my bedroom is not an invitation for rape,” she said to the court.
Witnesses for the state included Mercier’s friend who she first reported the incident to, Director of Public Safety Gerald Roderick, and Associate Vice President of Student Affairs and Title IX Coordinator Candace Wannamaker.
Fadojutimi was the only witness for the defense. He testified that he had engaged in consensual sexual intercourse with Mercier and that she was compliant.
Fadojutimi testified that he had been invited over the night of the alleged incident, and that although boundaries were discussed, he did not think that sex was off the table.
He said to the court that they were both clear on where things were going, and that she did not resist his advances. She had said “no” one time, after which Fadojutimi stopped and left her dorm.
In closing arguments, prosecutor G. Robert Mowell said “opening the door is not an invitation to rape.” He said she “did all she could in that frozen state.”
Oswinkle said in closing, “two teenagers having sex is not a crime.” He said that the complaining witness was “very wishy-washy” when she was laying out boundaries with Fadojutimi, and that there was no threat, no coercion, and no force involved.
After the attorneys’ closing arguments, the jury received instructions from Judge J. Frederick Price and was sent out at 5:45 p.m to deliberate.
They came back at 6:40 p.m. after sending a note to the judge saying the needed a better understanding of the elements of second-degree assault. After Judge Price re-read jury instructions on that charge, the jury reached their verdict of not guilty at 7:07 p.m.