Jury finds Darnell not guilty of 2010 rape

After two days of testimony and nearly three hours of deliberation, a 12-member jury found Jeffersonton resident Bascom Darnell Jr. not guilty of rape in Rappahannock County Circuit Court Friday afternoon (Sept. 21).

The two-day trial began early Thursday morning (Sept. 20), with Darnell represented by two defense attorneys — Amanda Zadrozny and Mark Bailey. Commonwealth’s Attorney Art Goff also had co-counsel on the case, being joined by former Page County Commonwealth’s Attorney Jack Hennessy. Judge Herman A. Whisenant presided.

Darnell, 37, was charged after events on the evening of Nov. 13, 2010 and early the next morning, Nov. 14. Although he admitted to having sex with defendant Lisa Marie Thorpe, 46, Darnell claimed the encounter was consensual and that the rape allegations stemmed from a combination of alcohol, her prescription medication and delusions brought about by paranoid schizophrenia.

Throughout Thursday’s seven hours of testimony, Goff established that Darnell met Thorpe at Molly’s Irish Pub in Warrenton on Nov. 13. Thorpe admitted she’d had four to six drinks and had been denied further service around midnight.

Thorpe said she left her friends at Molly’s after Darnell invited her to a party at a cabin in Culpeper. Shortly after arriving, however, Thorpe said she began to feel uncomfortable and asked Darnell to take her home, though he said he wasn’t ready to leave yet.

“I felt like I had probably made a bad decision,” Thorpe said on the stand Friday.

At some point, Thorpe either fell or was pushed off the deck, hitting her head in the process. Thorpe said a fight broke out, spilling over onto the deck and knocking her off, though other partygoers denied this. Partygoer Natalie Dunn testified Friday that she’d helped Thorpe after her injury, picking the leaves out of her hair and offering her a place to stay for the night; Thorpe declined her offer and instead waited in Darnell’s truck.

Around 2 a.m., Darnell joined Thorpe and agreed to take her home. While traveling back to Warrenton, Darnell got lost on some of Castleton’s back roads and stopped to try and “get [his] bearings.” Thorpe, meanwhile, placed a non-emergency call to the Culpeper County Sheriff’s Office asking for directions. Thorpe said Darnell had found her on the phone and became angry when she told him she had called the sheriff’s office, smacking the phone out of her hand.

Thorpe said she asked to use the bathroom, and Darnell then tried to initiate oral sex with her. When she refused, he threw her back in the truck and raped her for “what felt like hours.” Thorpe said she tried to spray him with mace almost immediately, missing him and instead spraying the inside of the passenger window.

In an interview with Captain J.C. Welch of the Rappahannock County Sheriff’s Office on Dec. 17, 2010, Darnell said he remembered the mace, but claimed Thorpe had “tried to pepper spray a raccoon.” During that same interview, he admitted to having sex with Thorpe, but claimed it was consensual.

Thorpe said she honked the truck’s horn in an effort to alert passersby, after which Darnell hit her in the head. She said she eventually stopped struggling after Darnell told her to cooperate “and [she] wouldn’t be hurt.”

During the alleged assault, Thorpe said she threw Darnell’s wallet, her shoes and strands of her hair underneath the truck in an effort to leave a trail. “With all the punching, I felt like I could wind up dead,” Thorpe said.

Property owner David Romine found Thorpe’s shoes while leaf-blowing his driveway the next morning, though the wallet and empty can of mace were never recovered.

As the sun rose just before 6 a.m. Nov. 14, 2010, Thorpe said Darnell started driving again, apologizing for what had just happened and asking her if she’d like to go out on a date. Thorpe said they stopped at the Quicke Mart on U.S. 211 and Hillsdale to purchase gas (neither was open) before arriving at Clevinger’s Corner. Thorpe said she immediately ran inside the store there and told cashiers she’d been beaten and raped and asked them to call the police.

The cashiers hid her in a back room of the store and lied to Darnell when he came inside to ask if they’d seen her; he had just noticed his wallet was missing and accused Thorpe of stealing it. By the time the police arrived, Darnell was gone, though, as Zadrozny later pointed out, Darnell was fully cooperative in an interview with Welch five days later.

“He was cooperative right from day one,” Zadrozny later told the jury. “That night — that’s pretty R-rated stuff and he laid it all out on the table.”

In an interview with Welch on Dec. 17, 2010, Darnell, who denied Thorpe’s assault claims in a previous interview on Nov. 19, admitted to Welch that “maybe I did force myself on her.” That 30-minute interview was played in its entirety for the jury Thursday morning.

“She was f***ing with me all night long and a man can only take so much,” Darnell continued. “I’m a victim too — she was the one instigating it all night . . . I took it . . . I told her ‘Give it up, you’ve been f***ing with me all night.’ ”

The defense spent Friday morning attempting to discredit Thorpe by revealing her diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia, past delusions (such as her one-time belief that a chip was implanted in her brain) and the amount of prescription medication she takes (including valium, Soma, Ambien and more).

The defense also focused on two incidents from Thorpe’s past they believed spoke to her character: the still-unsolved murder of her sister in 1988 and her accusation of rape against former Culpeper County Sheriff’s Office deputy Jerry Wayne Appfel. Thorpe alleged Appfel asked her for a ride home from a bar in 1985, invited her back to his bedroom and raped her when she was 18. No charges were ever filed.

The defense argued that a combination of alcohol, prescription medication, mental condition and survivor’s guilt caused her to misconstrue a consensual one night stand as rape. “It’s not only possible she’d falsify rape charges, it’s probable,” argued Zadrozny in her closing statement. “She’s been unwell for a long time . . . [and] she has a history of falsely accusing people.

“I don’t think she’s purposefully lying, but she’s definitely not telling the truth,” Zadrozny continued. “Your job [as jurors] is to consider whether there is reasonable doubt. This case screams out reasonable doubt.”

For his part, Goff argued that the video should be all the evidence necessary for a guilty verdict. “He describes his own actions as ‘something like rape,’ ” Goff said. “Nothing can be more compelling than a confession.

“This really comes down to one thing: her consent,” he argued. “What does it mean when a woman pushes you away? Is it an invitation? No.” Goff then added that both Darnell and Thorpe’s versions of that night contained all the same key details. “Mr. Darnell’s story is the same [as hers], with one difference now — her consent.”

Nonetheless, a few hours later the seven women and five men on the jury returned a verdict of not guilty, to the obvious disbelief of Thorpe and her family and elation of Darnell and his. After reading the verdict, Darnell hugged a visibly excited Zadrozny and enthusiastically shook hands with Bailey, tearing up and thanking them both the entire time.

Several of the jurors said later that while their opinions were initially split, they eventually agreed that Thorpe “should have known better,” in one juror’s words, when making her decisions that night.

Trial dates set

A trial date was set Monday morning (Sept. 23) in the case of Jerry Russell Bragg, the Strasburg man charged with three counts of aggravated sexual battery against a juvenile. Bragg waived his right to a jury; his bench trial is scheduled for Nov. 26.

Similarly, a trial date for Washington resident Rocky Lee Pullen was set Tuesday morning (Sept. 24). Pullen is charged with one count of unlawfully using a motor vehicle without owner Roy Lee Pullen’s consent. His trial is scheduled for Nov. 21.