| ||Associated Press|
LEONARDTOWN, Md. -- St. Mary's College basketball coach Othell Wilson was acquitted Friday of charges he kidnapped and raped his former girlfriend.
Wilson, a former Virginia star who played with Ralph Sampson and led the Cavaliers to the 1984 Final Four, was acquitted after the jury deliberated for about 2½ hours.
"I'm very elated," Wilson said. "Obviously, the evidence proves that I was not guilty. It's what I've been saying all along."
The woman's mother, who was not identified along with her daughter because of the rape charges, said she was in "total disbelief."
Wilson's ex-girlfriend said: "Evidently, the jury thinks the evidence is indicative of a normal relationship. That's very sad to me."
Wilson was placed on paid leave by the college after the charges were made last fall. The school said Friday it will meet with Wilson to discuss his future.
The 38-year-old Wilson contends he wrote a threatening letter to the 20-year-old college student but did not kidnap or sexually assault her.
Wilson spent much of Wednesday and part of Thursday on the stand. He told jurors he and the woman had argued the evening of Sept. 24. He said she willingly went with him from her apartment to his home in St. Inigoes near the college.
The woman testified that Wilson threatened to kill her and choked her repeatedly. She said he then raped her and held her at his home for two days. Wilson was arrested Sept. 27.
On Thursday, several St. Mary's College students and teachers joined Wilson's family members at the trial in a show of support.
Wilson said he and his ex-girlfriend had a "good relationship" during their 2½-year romance.'
He testified the couple argued on a Friday evening and then slept and cuddled romantically in his basement apartment before he drove her back home Sunday. The woman also testified she and Wilson spent much of the weekend sleeping together in bed.
"Folks, that's not rape, that's a vacation!" Wilson's lawyer, David Densford, said. "This is the strangest rape and kidnapping case you'll ever see."
Densford repeatedly questioned why the woman did not try to escape when she had at least three occasions to do so. Densford argued the woman could have fled Wilson when the two stopped for
groceries or when Wilson went briefly to his office and then later to a pub to pick up food.
She did not try to telephone police or contact Wilson's upstairs neighbors or anyone in the six neighboring houses, Densford said. She did call friends Saturday evening, he said, but did not tell them she felt in danger.
Prosecutor James Tanavage said the woman was so afraid Wilson would follow through on his threats to kill her she did not try to escape.
A hospital nurse who examined the woman Sept. 26 found a large bump on the back of her head and tears and abrasions on her genitals.
Wilson testified he never intended to give the woman a threatening letter he had written. He gave it to her Sept. 24 as he drove her to his home.
"If I'm arrested, I will lose my job and my life, which means I will have absolutely nothing left to lose," Wilson wrote in the letter. "Sometimes I think about just killing both of us. If I go, you're coming with me."
He was not serious about threatening her life, Wilson testified, but merely "venting" his frustration over their breakup.