AUBURN – In a rare retrial Tuesday, a judge told the jury the man sitting in the defendant’s chair already had been found guilty of raping a Bates College student.
This jury’s job, he said, was to decide whether Christian Averill’s assault in a campus bathroom four years ago was one of the “most heinous crimes that could be committed against a person,” said Androscoggin County Superior Court Justice Thomas Delahanty II.
Averill snapped off the lights, spun the teen around, locked his arm around her neck and clamped his hand over her mouth, Assistant District Attorney Deborah Cashman told jurors in her opening arguments.
When the freshman girl later asked what he wanted, he said, “Sex.” He shoved her into a stall and bent her over, her hands against the wall, Cashman said. He pulled down her pants and raped her.
Averill’s lawyer, George Hess, told the seven women and six men on the jury to set aside their emotions, be impartial and objective.
The rape was a serious crime, he said. “None of us would deny this.”
But whether it rises to the level of “heinous” must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt.
Concluding it was, Delahanty sentenced the Sabattus man to 34 years in prison, with all but 24 suspended. Averill, 25, would be at least 40 by the time he was set free.
The Maine Supreme Judicial Court overruled Delahanty’s sentence and sent the case back for the jury to decide.
If the jury finds the state hasn’t proved it was “heinous,” Delahanty would only be able to sentence Averill a maximum of 20 years in prison.
In another odd turn, Cashman, Hess and Delahanty read from the transcript of the first trial during the first half hour of the retrial. Reading the part of the rape victim was the court reporter, who sat in the witness chair and was even sworn in as the victim.
Reading the victim’s testimony, the court reporter said she was afraid Averill “would try to kill me or something.” He told her to be quiet “or else” and held something against her neck. She assumed it was a weapon.
After the rape, she said he helped her back on with her pants as she cried and shook. Then he lingered, making her fear again he would hurt her, according to the transcript.
Cashman called three more witnesses and showed slides of the building’s interior before resting her case. Hess called no witnesses. Averill did not take the stand.
The jury is expected today to hear closing arguments and the judge’s instructions before deliberating. It took the first jury about 20 minutes to convict Averill of gross sexual assault.