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A Lancaster County jury spent nearly two days deliberating before finding a 26-year-old Lincoln man guilty of sexually assaulting a fellow college student in his car in 2016.

Sami Mrza said what happened in his car early Nov. 13, 2016, was consensual and that when the woman said to stop he did.

That's not how the now 20-year-old woman described it.

She told police that she had asked Mrza, who she knew from a nursing class at Southeast Community College, if he wanted to get dinner, then suggested they go cruise O Street after they ate and the restaurant was going to close.

They got in his car, but they didn't go cruising.

She told police he immediately started hugging and kissing her and wouldn't let go.

"I kept telling him to stop, and he wouldn't stop," she said tearfully in a recorded interview.

Defense attorney Kurt Leffler pointed out in closing arguments Monday how her story changed when she talked to police 45 minutes later and she admitted she had told Mrza she liked things at the start.

"We're not suggesting she's a liar," Leffler said of her inconsistencies. "She's a person who got into a situation ... and it kind of spun out of control on her."

But the woman said she told Mrza she didn't want this when he put his hand down her pants. She said she asked him to stop, but he pushed her head down to perform a sex act on him, saying they weren't doing anything wrong.

"She was scared, and she thought he was going to hurt her if she didn't comply," Deputy Lancaster County Attorney Charlie Byrd told the jury.

She ultimately got out and ran to her car. She drove around, then called a friend and her mom, then called police.

In texts, Mrza told her he was sorry and asked her not to be mad.

A police officer who interviewed him used a sympathetic technique, saying he understood. She had kissed him and made him think she wanted to, "but there comes a time that no means no and you have to stop," the officer said. "Sounds like you just couldn't control yourself."

"Yes, it was like that," Mrza said.

He said when she told him to stop he did stop, just not right away.

On Wednesday morning, the jury found Mrza guilty of first-degree sexual assault.

Mrza, who is from Iraq and had been in the U.S. for just two years when this happened, faces up to 50 years at his sentencing next month. He also is likely to be deported after serving his sentence.

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On Twitter @LJSpilger.


Lori Pilger is a public safety reporter.

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