URBANA — A 22-year-old Florida woman told a Champaign County jury Tuesday she believed an Urbana teenager when he said he would kill her if she didn’t have sex with him.
The woman recounted in detail what happened to her on Jan. 11, 2011, during a brief visit to an abandoned Urbana apartment, where she thought she was going to meet a friend who would sell her Valium. What happened instead was, she was robbed by three young men she had never seen before, then raped by one of them.
The jury apparently believed the woman’s version of what happened and not that of accused robber and rapist Darren Gillespie, 18.
It took the jury about 40 minutes Wednesday to convict him of aggravated criminal sexual assault and robbery. Judge Heidi Ladd set sentencing for Dec. 17. He faces up to 37 years in prison.
Since the spring of 2011, Gillespie has been serving a 15-year sentence in the Juvenile Department of Corrections for an attempted armed robbery that happened the day after the woman was robbed and raped. In that case, Gillespie pleaded guilty to trying to rob an Urbana police officer who was posing as a drug customer on Jan. 12, 2011, during a sting to ferret out the person or persons who had earlier stolen a drug dealer’s phone and was using it to lure his unsuspecting customers into robberies.
In January 2011, the woman was living in Urbana and admitted that she had contacted her high school friend with her cellphone to arrange to purchase Valium from him. She was told to come to an apartment in the now-condemned Urbana Town Homes, formerly Woodstone Apartments, at 1001 S. Lierman Ave.
Once she got inside, she was confronted by a young man who ordered her to empty her pockets of cash, then he reached in her pocket and took her cellphone. The woman identified that man as Gillespie, someone she had never seen before.
Within seconds of entering the apartment, two other males appeared. She didn’t recognize them, either. Both of them were subsequently sentenced to juvenile prison — a now 18-year-old for robbing that woman and the other, now 17, for the attempted armed robbery of the undercover police officer the next day.
The woman testified that after the robbery, Gillespie told the other two to leave the apartment, which they did. He then ordered her to the second level of the apartment. The woman said she cried and begged him not to hurt her as she went up the stairs, but he continued to order her upstairs. In the bathroom, he had her pull her pants down then sexually assaulted her.
He then left, and after waiting several seconds, the woman collected herself and left the apartment as well. She returned to the car where her boyfriend was waiting and told him what had happened. The boyfriend then drove her to Carle Foundation Hospital, where a sexual assault nurse examiner collected evidence and, along with a police officer, wrote down what the woman said had happened to her.
Assistant State’s Attorney Scott Bennett and Gillespie’s attorney, James Dedman of Urbana, had entered into a stipulation agreeing that the DNA extracted from the semen matched Gillespie’s DNA.
But Gillespie testified that his DNA was present because he had met the woman at a party near downtown Urbana the night before and that she had agreed to have sex with him on a pool table in the basement of the home where the party was held. He admitted he had robbed the woman but denied sexually assaulting her that day.
Bennett called the woman back to the stand to testify in rebuttal that she had never seen Gillespie before the day she was robbed, nor had she had been to a party the night before her attack.
In closing arguments, Bennett reminded jurors that Gillespie had 22 months to come up with the story of the consensual sex and that Gillespie had told investigators at the time of his arrest that there had been no sexual contact between him and the woman.
Dedman said the surveillance video presented as evidence showed that 2 minutes and 59 seconds elapsed from the time the other two men left the apartment until the time the woman left the apartment. He argued that was not enough time for all the activity that she had described: going up the stairs, begging him not to hurt her, going into the bathroom, being assaulted, waiting for him to leave, then leaving herself.
“It’s probably not impossible, but when you’re evaluating this, come back to his semen and 2 minutes and 59 seconds for all these things to happen. If you don’t find reasonable doubt in that amount of time, I don’t know what to say to you,” Dedman said.
But Bennett countered Dedman’s argument by recounting what the woman said had happened to her, while showing even less than the 2 minutes and 59 seconds of the surveillance video to the jury.
“Two minutes and 59 seconds does not sound like a lot of time, but it’s exactly enough time for what she described she was going through. The defendant lured her to that abandoned apartment, robbed her of her phone and cash then ordered her upstairs and sexually assaulted her. Hold him accountable,” Bennett said.