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Tears Of Joy, Anguish Fill Courtroom Upon Hearing Kevin Olsen Not Guilty

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Charlotte Observer
A jury found Kevin Olsen not guilty of all rape charge after three days of deliberation.

After three days of deliberation, the jury in the rape trial of Kevin Olsen came to a verdict: Not guilty. Olsen, the former UNC Charlotte quarterback and brother of Carolina Panthers player Greg Olsen, had been charged with three counts of second degree rape and one count of sexual offense of his then-girlfriend in February 2017.

As day eight of the trial slowly rolled on, there was little evidence that the jury would have a verdict. It was mostly quiet in the room. At one point there were more reporters in the courtroom than there were court officials.

And then, around 3 p.m., the court received a note from the jury. There were three questions.

Among them: what happened if they couldn’t reach a unanimous decision? And, what would happen if there was a hung jury?

Superior Court judge Karen Eady-Williams instructed jurors to keep working toward finding a verdict. But, with questions like that, it felt like the trial was headed into a ninth day or possibly, a mistrial. Defense attorney George Laughrun mentioned multiple times the possibility of a mistrial as an option.

A little over an hour later, the mood started to shift in the courtroom. The number of sheriff’s deputies increased from the usual two or three, to about 20. That’s pretty standard when a verdict is about to come down.

Olsen and his family, including older brother Greg Olsen - who appeared to had just left a workout wearing athletic shorts and a T-shirt, filed in. Olsen’s accuser sat with her family. Assistant District Attorney Kristen Northrup, pointed to a sheriff’s deputy who would help escort her out if she needed to leave at any time.

The jury entered the courtroom, and Judge Eady-Williams addressed them.

"Ladies and gentlemen of the jury I’ve been informed that a verdict has been reached as to each count in the matter of State of North Carolina vs. Kevin Walter Olsen. Who is your foreperson? Please stand, sir."

The envelope holding the verdicts on all four charges was passed to the clerk. As he read the not guilty verdicts, the Olsen family let out a collective cry.

Olsen’s accuser and her family were quickly led outside of the courtroom. Olsen’s family continued to cheer as the jury was dismissed. Judge Eady-Williams reminded them multiple times court was still in session.

Outside the courthouse, George and Bree Laughrun, the father- daughter team who represented Olsen, met with reporters.

"The relief of the world has been lifted off Kevin," George Laughrun said. "Think if he had been convicted. He goes to jail for up to 20 years. We leave to come to the courthouse, does he go home or go to jail? That’s why the burst from the family you heard it if you were in there, not the best courtroom decorum, but think about that your loved one has just been acquitted. They could have been pulled them off the ceiling."

Throughout the trial, Laughrun referred to the proceedings as a trial by text message. He pointed to numerous text exchanges from Olsen’s accuser that he argued showed she wasn’t acting like she had been raped. The defense claimed Olsen’s former girlfriend was jealous and revenge seeking. Laughrun noted that Olsen had cheated on her numerous times.  

Of course, prosecutors Jane Honeycutt and Kristen Northrup saw it differently. They had continuously argued Olsen’s former girlfriend’s testimony was consistent and corroborated by witnesses. They argued Olsen beat his accuser and that she was too scared to fight him off or say the word no. During closing arguments they reminded jurors: consent induced by fear is not consent at law.

In their remarks to the media, they started off by thanking the jury for their hard work and service. Then Northrup added: "Sexual assault cases in general are always extremely difficult cases. They present some very real societal issues. And when you couple that with an intimate partner relationship along with sexual assault, it does present some challenges. We certainly respect the jury for understanding those challenges and respecting those challenges and still taking the time to consider this case."

The last question asked by media was if they had spent any time talking to the jurors after the trial.

"We did not," Assistant District Attorney Jane Honeycutt said. "We spent our time with the survivor."