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Former Dartmouth rugby player acquitted on rape charges

Special to the Union Leader

March 27. 2014 8:02PM


HAVERHILL — A Grafton County Superior Court jury Thursday acquitted a former Dartmouth College rugby player on all charges related to accusations from a former Dartmouth freshman that he sexually attacked her last spring in her dormitory room while she was sleeping.

Parker C. Gilbert, 21, who left campus last year and had a New London address when he was indicted on seven counts of aggravated felonious sexual assault, walked out of the North Haverhill courtroom a free man Thursday afternoon.

The jury of six men and six women found him not guilty on six total counts. Judge Peter H. Bornstein had dismissed two additional sexual assault charges during eight days of testimony before the jury got the case late Wednesday.

A large group of Gilbert’s family and friends from the United States and England — the former Big Green rugby player’s home country — broke out in sobs and cries of happiness after the last of the verdicts was read. Gilbert’s mother wrapped herself around her son and the group of about 30 took turns greeting him three or four at a time in a small conference room off the courthouse waiting room.

“We are pleased by the verdict,” defense attorney George Ostler of Norwich, Vt., said. “The jury did its job and justice was done.”

Upstairs, Grafton County Attorney Lara Saffo came out of her office and acknowledged she’d had a tough day in the courtroom when the verdicts were returned. She said bringing the charges had resulted in a “terrible” process from the start for the former freshman, who also left Dartmouth last year.

In her two days on the stand, the woman provided emotional testimony that Gilbert had no permission to enter her unlocked room the night of May 2. She told jurors he refused repeatedly to cease attacking her when she asked him several times to stop.

Defense attorneys said the encounter was consensual sex between two students who had been drinking and had seen each other earlier in the night at a campus fraternity party.

Saffo and Assistant Grafton County Attorney Paul Fitzgerald prosecuted the case.

Neither the woman nor her parents were present in court Thursday when the jury returned the not guilty verdicts.

Before they left the courthouse, Gilbert’s legal team also released a brief, written statement to reporters, saying, “we are relieved that this nightmare is over for Parker Gilbert and his family.”

“Parker is innocent and we thank the men and women of the jury for doing their job. We are also grateful to Parker’s family and friends who stood by him during this 10-month ordeal. “

The five counts of aggravated felonious sexual assault were “special felonies” in New Hampshire. Each count carried a maximum prison term of 20 years. The jury also found Gilbert not guilty of criminal trespassing, a Class A misdemeanor.

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