A Multnomah County Judge has found two former leaders in Portland's African American community not guilty of sexually assaulting a woman in 2012.
“I find I cannot conclude to a moral certainty that the defendants are guilty of the crimes they are charged with,"said Judge David Rees Friday afternoon, concluding the seven-day trial. The defendants had waived their right to a jury trial, leaving the verdict in Rees' hands.
Defendants Charles McGee, former director of the Black Parent Initiative and Multnomah County Commission candidate, and Aubré Dickson, former chair of the Oregon Housing Stability Council and a vice president at KeyBank, each faced a minimum of 8 years in prison for a spate of sexual abuse charges.
McGee and Dickson were accused of sexually abusing and attempting to rape Erica Naito-Campbell in McGee's home on the night of May 10, 2012. According to Naito-Campbell, the three acquaintances had been out drinking in downtown Portland, visited a strip club in East Portland, and then went to McGee's home, where Naito-Campbell says both men attempted to have sex with her without her consent.
In her testimony, Naito-Campbell said she repeatedly told the men “no.”
Naito-Campbell, the granddaughter of Portland developer Bill Naito, went public with her allegations in a story published by the Willamette Week in February 2018, which sparked an investigation by the Multnomah County District Attorney's office. Naito-Campbell said she chose to speak out about the alleged abuse when she heard McGee was running for an empty Multnomah County Commission seat.
“This case is about two men not taking ‘no’ for an answer, about two men seeing a woman smaller than them, more vulnerable than them, and taking what they wanted from her,” said Deputy District Attorney Amanda Nadell, according to reporting by the Oregonian's Aimee Green.
Naito-Campbell's allegations cost McGee and Dickson their jobs. Neither man testified during the trial.
The defendants' attorneys accused Naito-Campbell for using her family's influence to ruin the lives of two Black men and inflating the story in hopes of eventually writing a book about her experience. They pointed to her employment status, teenage pregnancy, and fraught personal relationships as reasons to question her character.
“She may have thought, ‘I can just say these things to the prosecutors and the police and Willamette Week,’” said Stephen Houze, Dickson’s attorney, according to the O. “‘I’m Erica Naito-Campbell and people will just believe me.’ And ‘I can cry on command and they will believe me.’”
Defense attorneys also blamed Willamette Week reporter Nigel Jaquiss for helping Naito-Campbell fine-tune her story and seek justice.
Here's Green's summary of those accusations:
According to emails acquired by the defense, Jaquiss told Naito-Campbell that he was looking forward to seeing McGee and Dickson in “orange jumpsuits,” the defense attorneys said. After the story published, Jaquiss also offered to call the head of the district attorney’s sex crimes unit to jumpstart a prosecution and reassured Naito-Campbell by emailing her “You won,” the attorneys said.
The Multnomah County DA's office issued a statement Friday expressing their disappointment in Rees' verdict.
"We continue to believe the victim in this case who courageously came forward to report what happened to her in May 2012," the statement reads. "Our unwavering commitment of supporting and advocating for survivors of sexual assault remains rooted in our core values. We stand shoulder-to-shoulder with all survivors of sexual assault. The Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office ensures sexual assault victims are informed and supported at every step in the criminal justice process, even after a verdict. We remain committed to that duty.”