HENRICO, Va. (WRIC) — The Henrico Circuit Court was silent as a deputy delivered the folded piece of paper from which a judge read the jury’s unanimous verdict of not guilty on the five counts of sexual assault facing a former Henrico Gym teacher.
Dean Lakey has already faced these charges in court once, in a June trial that ended with a hung jury after over four hours of deliberation.
The judge asked for — and was given — silence in the courtroom as he read the verdict, which left Lakey’s accuser, in tears. But as Lakey’s supporters — including his family and longtime colleagues — exited the courtroom, some could be heard letting out whoops of joy in the hallway.
The two sides spent over an hour Thursday presenting their closing arguments before the jury entered deliberations. The defense recounted evidence intended to establish an alibi for Lakey and undermine the credibility of the accuser’s story. Meanwhile, the presentation of the commonwealth leaned heavily on the emotional testimony of the accuser, as well as that of her ex-boyfriend and a sexual assault counselor, to whom she disclosed her allegations.
Lakey’s attorney, Craig Cooley, began by questioning why the accuser didn’t use the bathroom closest to the classroom in which her after-school activity was held, instead of the one near the school gym, where the assault was alleged to have taken place.
Cooley also suggested that the accuser suffered from unspecified mental health issues, which he pointed to as a possible reason she might have wanted to fabricate the claims against Lakey.
“I suspect that the evidence here suggests a significant mental health issue,” he said. “She is a self-mutilator.”
While the burden of proving Lakey’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt fell on the prosecution, Cooley said the defense went far above that standard, establishing Lakey’s actual innocence in the case.
“The commonwealth is making this up out of whole cloth,” he said.
Key to the defense’s argument was a timeline for the day of the alleged assault, March 2, which Cooley said proved Lakey could not have been in the bathroom at the time the accuser said she was attacked.
The commonwealth attempted to cast doubt on this version of events, saying there was no direct testimony confirming Lakey’s whereabouts, only testimony that he should or would have been in those places.
“Take your common sense, take your life experiences — the person who always has an excuse, who always has an explanation, how credible are they in real life?” asked Alison Linas, Henrico commonwealth’s attorney.
She added that the inconsistencies in the accuser’s testimony highlighted by the defense were typical of a juvenile victim of sexual assault.
CORRECTION: This article originally contained the accuser’s identity, but has since been removed because they were a minor when the claim was made.