It took a Yolo County jury less than a day of deliberations to acquit a 21-year-old Davis man of rape charges Friday following a two-week trial in Yolo Superior Court.
Thaddeus Jay Sonne, who had been in Yolo County Jail custody since September, was freed immediately after the seven-man, five-woman jury delivered its not-guilty verdict at 1:30 p.m., his attorney Dan Hutchinson said.
“This case, in my opinion, should never have been charged, and the jury’s quick verdict reflects this fact,” said Hutchinson, a deputy public defender. “I was happy to see Mr. Sonne walk out of the courtroom a free man — vindicated by a jury from his community — and into the arms of those who care about him and always believed in his innocence.”
Deputy District Attorney Amanda Zambor, who prosecuted the case, could not be reached for comment Friday.
Sonne was arrested on the night of Aug. 16, 2012, after a couple walking near Second and H streets in downtown Davis spotted him having sex with a woman near the Amtrak station. The couple alerted two nearby police officers, who reported that the woman was crying, kicking her legs and saying “no, no, stop” as they confronted the pair.
Both Sonne and the woman were among a group of friends who had gone bar-hopping in downtown Davis that night after crossing paths at a party. By the time police contacted them, the woman’s blood-alcohol content was 0.23 — nearly three times the legal limit of 0.08 — while Sonne’s registered at 0.17.
In a police officer’s audio recording played at trial, a stunned Sonne is heard saying he believed the sex was consensual. He also said he heard the woman saying “no,” but added: “Sometimes, it’s more of a dare than an actual request. If she wanted me to stop, she could have made me stop.”
“No means no,” Zambor told the jury during her closing argument Thursday. “It’s not vague. It’s not confusing. … The defendant is guilty of rape because (the woman) told him no.”
Hutchinson, meanwhile, said Sonne’s level of intoxication may have prevented him from comprehending the word “no” until the officers had approached the pair. He also blamed police and prosecutors for pushing the case forward even when the woman said she had not been raped and expressed uncertainty about pursuing charges.
The District Attorney’s Office initially had declined to prosecute Sonne following his arrest, sending the case back to the Davis Police Department for additional investigation. Charges were filed against him in September.
Had he been convicted, Sonne faced up to eight years in state prison and would have had to register as a sex offender for the remainder of his life, Hutchinson said.
— Reach Lauren Keene at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-747-8048. Follow her on Twitter at @laurenkeene