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Juries acquit three Lincoln defendants facing felony charges
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Juries acquit three Lincoln defendants facing felony charges

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Last week, juries in Lincoln acquitted three defendants standing trial on charges of burglary, domestic assault and second-degree assault.

Three not guilty verdicts in the only three felony trials in Lancaster County last week surprised County Attorney Joe Kelly.

"But if you look at the cases and the substance of these cases, it happens," he said. 

One case involved an accused getaway driver for women who burglarized an acquaintance's home, another involved a man accused of beating a woman with a microwave cord and the third involved allegations a man broke a beer bottle over another man's head during a fight at a football game watch party.

David Ruaikot, 31, cried tears of joy when the jury foreman announced the not guilty verdict in the fight case.

"He was very happy with it," defense attorney Chris Eickholt said Monday. 

Eickholt believes the jury found Ruaikot's testimony the most credible version of what happened when a fight got out of hand that night. 

Ruaikot said he ducked when one of the three men in the apartment tried to hit him in the head, and the victim was hit.

In the getaway driver case, Sade Cope was accused of aiding and abetting a burglary on Sept. 27, 2015.

But her attorney, Matt Aerni, said the state had to prove Cope, 22, knew the women she dropped off near 22nd and S streets were going to break into a home.

No one testified that she did, he said.

At trial, one of the women who arrived at the house separately that day testified for the state that the women had planned to rob a resident of her marijuana but were surprised to find she wasn't home when they showed up, Aerni said.

So the women broke in, and Cope picked them up later.

"She admitted (to police) to driving them around and to picking them up when they came out," Aerni said. "She admitted it seemed kind of suspicious."

But Cope maintained she didn't know anything about a burglary, he said.

In the third case, police accused Richard Morey, 51, of grabbing a woman he knew by the throat, punching her and then whipping her with a microwave's power cord and kicking her in March 2015.

But at trial, inconsistencies between the woman's testimony and the evidence cast doubt on the state's case, Morey's attorney Doug Kerns said.

Every time the alleged victim made a statement to police, Kerns said, her account of what Morey did to her "seemed to differ for the worst, rather than just differ for lack of memory."

And, he said, the woman was not a credible witness at trial. 

"He had always contended from the beginning of the case that he did not do what he was accused of,” Kerns said.

The public shouldn't focus too much three acquittals in one week, County Attorney Kelly said.

After all, his office convicted 13 consecutive defendants in one term earlier this year, Kelly said.

Before his deputy attorneys file charges against someone, they need to first believe the defendant is guilty and also believe a jury would find that person guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, he said.

If the prosecutor doesn't believe both or either, the office does not file the charge, he said.

Sometimes testimony at trial comes out differently than when statements are taken from witnesses and victims during the investigation, he said.

"You can't control that," he said.

Reach the writer at 402-473-2657 or rjohnson@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSRileyJohnson.

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Local government reporter

Riley Johnson reports on local government in Lincoln.

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