Jury finds man accused of child rape not guilty
By Justin Wier
Tears broke out on both sides of the courtroom Friday as Eric Damore was found not guilty of rape by a jury.
Damore, 44, of Boardman, was accused of raping a 12-year-old relative with special needs in October 2014.
A Mahoning County grand jury indicted Damore last year on charges of rape and gross sexual imposition. He faced a penalty of life imprisonment.
The accuser’s family appeared distraught as Judge Anthony M. D’Apolito read the jury’s verdict in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court. Damore also broke into tears.
In his closing argument Thursday, defense attorney John Juhasz cast doubts on the testimony of the accuser and told the jury reasonable doubts remained.
Jennifer McLaughlin, an assistant county prosecutor, argued the key fact, the claim that Damore placed his mouth on the accuser’s genitals, remained constant from the accuser’s initial allegations to investigators to her testimony in court.
It made no sense, McLaughlin argued, the accuser would make up a lie to frame a relative she adored.
The jury apparently required more evidence.
The alleged incidents were said to have taken place when the accuser spent the night at Damore’s house.
The family of the accuser did not report anything until about a week later, and investigators never collected physical evidence.
Juhasz argued that the accuser’s medical history, which includes a diagnosis of autism and developmental disabilities, called her testimony into question. The accuser also said she heard voices that told her to do things. The accuser also testified she used to make things up to surprise people.
“It’s hard not to feel sorry for that young lady for the hand she’s been dealt, but this case cannot be decided on sympathy,” Juhasz told jurors Thursday. “It’s decided on facts.”
The accuser further testified, however, she quickly would tell people she made up things, and she did not make up the allegations against Damore.
McLaughlin called Damore’s testimony into question because he admitted he drank four 16-ounce beers the night of the alleged incidents.
Both McLaughlin and Juhasz chose not to comment after the verdict.