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Jury acquits two former BYU players of rape

SALT LAKE CITY -- Two former Brigham Young University
football players were acquitted Friday of charges alleging they
raped a girl at their apartment after she passed out from drinking.

B.J. Mathis and Ibrahim Rashada, who no longer are students at
the school, were found not guilty of charges of aggravated sexual
assault, obstruction of justice and furnishing alcohol to a minor.

Two other players who had faced the same charges agreed to plea
deals, as did two more players who had faced lesser charges. All
have left the team and the school.

"I'm overwhelmed," Rashada said after the verdict, which his
attorney later said hinged on the critical question of consent.

"I feel relieved, blessed," Mathis said. "We wish the best
for her, that she can get on with her life."

Prosecutors said they did their best in a "difficult" case.
The family of the 17-year-old girl issued a statement applauding
her resolve to bring the case to court.

The girl testified during the trial that she was raped by a
group of men at the apartment after they coaxed her into drinking
vodka, forcing her to watch pornography and passing out in a
bedroom. She said Mathis forced her to perform oral sex, but she
could not say definitively that Rashada was in the room.

William Turner Jr., who pleaded guilty in juvenile court to
forcible sodomy in the case, testified that the players took
advantage of a "barely conscious" girl.

But Karland Bennett, also a freshman on the team, testified that
the sex acts appeared to be consensual. Bennett was charged with
sexual assault, but pleaded guilty to reduced charges of
obstruction of justice and dealing harmful material to a minor.

Jurors later told lawyers on both sides that they felt
prosecutors didn't prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt.

Dean Zabriskie, who represented Rashada, said the case turned on
the question of consent.

"I think that became the critical issue -- was there consent or
was there implied consent," he said.

BYU students sign the Honor Code, which prohibits the use of
alcohol, tobacco and sex outside of marriage. Violating it can lead
to punishment including suspension or expulsion. Mathis and Rashada
were both kicked off the football team after an Honor Code
investigation by the school.