Verdicts in sex-with-minor case: not guilty

LIMA — Jurors deliberated for just 90 minutes Thursday afternoon before returning verdicts of not guilty in the case of a one-time Lima resident charged with having sexual intercourse with a 15-year-old girl.

Defense attorney Bradley Koffel, representing 23-year-old Daryl Hunt, draped an arm over his client’s shoulder and hugged him as the verdicts were read. The alleged victim fought back tears as she left the courtroom.

Hunt, 23, of Kankakee, Illinois, and a former student at the University of Northwestern Ohio, stood trial this week in Allen County Common Pleas Court on three counts of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor, felonies of the fourth degree. Prosecutors say Hunt had sex with the girl on three separate occasions in December of 2020.

In his closing statements to jurors, Koffel said the state’s lack of physical evidence and often contradictory testimony from the alleged victim left jurors no choice than to return not guilty verdicts.

“If you think (Hunt) didn’t do it, that’s a not guilty vote. If you think ‘I don’t know,’ that’s a not guilty vote. If you think ‘maybe he did it,’ it’s a not guilty. If you think he probably did it or even if it’s highly probable that he did do it, Daryl is innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt,” Koffel said.

The state wrapped up its case on Tuesday with testimony from the alleged victim in the case, who volunteered information from the witness stand about the sexual trysts as well as an alleged episode of oral sex between herself and Hunt. The three counts of the indictment allege only that Hunt and the girl had vaginal sex.

The revelation prompted defense attorneys to request a mistrial in the case. Koffel said the 11th-hour disclosure of the act of oral sex between the victim and defendant “criminally altered this case” and affected how the defense team prepared for trial.

Judge Jeffrey Reed ruled against a mistrial and simply instructed jurors to disregard any testimony about an act of oral sex.

The alleged victim admitted during cross-examination that portions of her testimony were contradictory to statements she made previously to investigators. She blamed the inconsistencies on her young age at the time but also said some of her statements were intentionally misleading in an attempt to protect Hunt “because I felt like I loved the guy.”

She said she and Hunt engaged in consensual sex three times: once behind her house, once at Bresler Reservoir and once at Faurot Park in Lima.

Hunt denied ever having intercourse with the young girl, who he said had represented herself as an 18-year-old when they first met on the social media platform SnapChat.

Asked by Assistant Allen County Prosecuting Attorney Josh Carp about statements he made on a phone call from the Lima Police Department, played for jurors during the trial, on which he told a female acquaintance that he was in police custody because “there were things of a sexual nature that took place and things that happened,” Hunt on Thursday testified that he was referring to various acts of intimacy but not intercourse.

“We made out; we kissed; I touched her thigh,” Hunt told jurors.