Anti-crime crusader found not guilty of rape; hung jury on one count

ldemer@adn.comFebruary 14, 2014 

An Anchorage man who had cultivated a reputation as an anti-crime crusader before being charged with rape in 2011 was found not guilty on two counts of first-degree sexual assault late Friday afternoon, a prosecutor said. Jurors were deadlocked on a third count of sexual assault against Dwight "Sam" O'Connor, now age 54.

Anchorage Superior Court Judge Kevin Saxby ruled a mistrial on that charge, leaving open the possibility of a new trial, deputy district attorney Clint Campion said Friday evening.

Prosecutors will decide by early March whether to go forward.

"We have to consult with the victim, who of course would have to go through it again. That's a factor we have to consider," Campion said. The woman testified at the trial about what happened.

"Nobody is in a right frame of mine after a verdict to make a final decision."

The arrest of O'Connor in July 2011 shocked Anchorage political and community leaders.

O'Connor had served a decade on the Anchorage Public Safety Advisory Commission. As head of the Westside Community Patrol, he made a name for himself trying to eradicate prostitution in Spenard. Mayor Dan Sullivan, who in 2011 said that he was saddened by the arrest, became familiar with O'Connor back when Sullivan was a west side Anchorage Assembly member and O'Connor was on the community patrol. Some who knew O'Connor well, including an ex-wife, said at the time of his arrest that they doubted the charges were true.

The three sexual assault charges stemmed from different prosecution theories of how the crime occurred, Campion said.

O'Connor didn't testify but his defense was that the sex was consensual, the prosecutor said.

The trial took about two weeks.

Jurors "took a lot of time to consider this case, and we think they were thorough in their deliberations," Campion said. "They got the case yesterday and deliberated all day. We know those decisions aren't easy for anybody."

The woman who accused O'Connor said she was picked up early one morning by a man she didn't know while walking near Northway Mall. She asked the man to take her to a friend's home, where she was staying.

She told police the man instead took her to a locked construction yard and raped her. Afterward, the man drove her to the area of her friend's home, and she reported to police that she had been raped. She was able to describe the man and tell police where the construction yard was.

The defense lawyer was Brendan Kelley. Jenna Gruenstein prosecuted the case.

Reach Lisa Demer at ldemer@adn.com or 257-4390.

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