URBANA — A Champaign County jury Wednesday acquitted an Urbana man who told police a woman never said no to his sexual advances.
Six men and six women deliberated for less than two hours Wednesday before finding Justin Burr, 19, of the 900 block of South Vine Street not guilty of criminal sexual assault.
“If she would’ve told me to stop, I would’ve got off. I’m not that kind of person,” Burr told Urbana police detectives trying to learn more about what happened between Burr, who was then 18, and a 21-year-old woman on Feb. 7, 2019, in his home.
The trial began Tuesday before Judge Ben Dyer.
As is his right, Burr did not testify, but jurors heard a one-hour statement he voluntarily gave to police within hours of the woman’s report of being sexually assaulted.
He repeatedly told Detectives Matt Bain and Jeff Steinberg that the sex that happened in his bedroom while his father and sister were away was consensual, as opposed to what the woman told the jury Tuesday.
Now 23 and a mother, the woman said she went to Burr’s apartment willingly that evening after a stressful day at work, thinking they would play video games.
After sitting in the living room a while, they moved to his bedroom to “cuddle,” a word both of them used to describe the start of what happened.
The visit was about the fifth time the two of them had “hung out,” having met through mutual friends.
They also texted each other through Snapchat.
The woman described them hugging and kissing, then Burr straddling her as she was on her back.
“He grabbed me by the throat. He started to choke me,” she said. “I started to feel dizzy.
“I could see little stars and thought I was going to pass out. He said he didn’t want to be rough.”
She described the tussle of him pulling down her yoga pants and her pulling them back up.
She said he also pinned her wrists above her head with both his hands and that during the struggle, she said no to him “a good five or six times.”
“He said he was not like my ex. He would be gentle and would take care of me afterwards,” she said in answer to questions from Assistant State’s Attorney Tom Bucher. “It was like what I was saying was going in one ear and out the other. He just really wasn’t listening to what I was saying.”
The woman said because she has epilepsy, she feared that if she did not calm herself, she might experience a seizure.
“I gave up. I knew that no matter what I did, I wasn’t going to leave that room untouched,” she said.
Burr admitted to detectives that he choked the woman.
“Girls like that. They’re turned on by that. I have done it before to girls,” he said. “All my friends have done it to their girlfriends.”
The victim said when the sex act was completed, Burr went to the bathroom and she quickly dressed, then told him that her friend had texted and needed her so she had an excuse to leave.
She said she ran to her apartment a few blocks away. En route, she texted her friend that she was “scared.”
“I was crying, shaking and trying to process what just happened,” she said, adding that she got in the shower as soon as she got home and sat on the floor.
“I felt disgusting … I felt like I was damaged goods,” she said.
The friend testified that she found the woman in a corner of the guest bedroom curled up in a ball.
“She was shaking, crying. It seemed like she was having an anxiety attack of some sort,” the friend testified, adding that she saw red marks on her friend’s neck and took a photo. After talking, they contacted police.
The woman went to Carle Foundation Hospital, where a sexual-assault nurse examiner checked her out and took evidence for a rape kit.
On cross-examination by defense attorney Baku Patel, the woman admitted that she sent a sexually suggestive text to Burr via Snapchat on an earlier occasion and that on a previous visit to her home, Burr wanted to have sex with her but accepted her refusal.
She agreed that she gave him a brief hug as she hurried out of his apartment on Feb. 7, and that he never verbally threatened her, took her phone from her or stopped her from leaving.
Within hours of the sexual encounter, four Urbana police officers went to Burr’s home, where he cooperated with them as they collected a used condom and his bedsheets, then agreed to go to the police station to talk with detectives.
In closing arguments, Bucher reminded the jurors that the law states that “acquiescence, giving in, does not equal consent.”
He argued that Burr apparently misinterpreted the woman’s earlier text expressing interest in him as “consent going forward.”
The choking, he argued, was for Burr’s pleasure, not the woman’s.
Patel countered that there was no medical evidence to suggest she had been forcibly raped and said Burr’s choking of her was so light that the officers didn’t notice red marks.
Repeatedly calling Burr a “kid,” Patel said his client willingly spoke to police because he had done nothing wrong.
“It sounds like regrets after she left,” Patel said. “Maybe it was too early. Maybe it was buyer’s remorse. You’re not required to answer why. That’s the state’s burden.”