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Rape trial ends with acquittal

January 31, 2007|by PEPPER BALLARD

HAGERSTOWN - Christopher Michael Ridenour was acquitted of rape charges Tuesday after Ridenour and several of his friends testified about his continued sexual relationship with the alleged victim after the reported June 14, 2006, rape.

The Washington County Circuit Court jury of seven men and five women returned not guilty verdicts on all counts, including first-degree rape, after about 90 minutes of deliberations.

Ridenour, 34, of 10701 Bower Ave. in Halfway, had been held at the Washington County Detention Center on the charges since July. He was released Tuesday.

About 15 minutes into the jury's deliberations, jurors asked Circuit Judge M. Kenneth Long Jr., who presided over the trial, to tell them why Ridenour was arrested nearly a month after the reported rape.

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After consulting with attorneys, Long sent back a note to the jurors telling them to rely on their memory of the testimony.

The alleged victim, a 24-year-old woman, dated Ridenour for about three weeks before she reported he choked and raped her at his apartment June 14. They had consensual sex prior to the incident, she testified Monday.

The woman, who is pregnant with Ridenour's child, sobbed as the not guilty verdicts were read. She remained in the courtroom long after Ridenour's friends, attorneys and spectators left. Washington County Assistant State's Attorney Gina Cirincion, who prosecuted the case, was tearful as she approached the woman, who was being consoled by Jill Ritter, the county state's attorney's office victim witness unit director.

Ridenour told jurors that he continued to have sex with the alleged victim after the alleged rape.

"I'm not gonna lie, it's convenient," Ridenour testified about the continued sexual relationship. "It may make me a bad person, but it doesn't make me a rapist."

A few of his friends testified that the alleged victim served as a designated driver on a trip to a Martinsburg, W.Va.-area bar after the reported rape and was affectionate with Ridenour on the dance floor.

The alleged victim took the witness stand as a rebuttal witness and testified she served as a designated driver on a trip to that bar before June 14. She testified Monday that she did not have sex with Ridenour after June 14.

Cirincion, in her closing argument, poked holes in the friends' testimony, alleging they got together to compare notes, yet "they couldn't get their details straight."

Cirincion, in arguing for a rape conviction, told jurors to refer to medical testimony of the alleged victim's hospital exams.

"The force here is exhibited on her arms, exhibited through her testimony and exhibited through her neck," she said.

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