Local News

November 1, 2013

Chatsworth man found not guilty of rape

A jury last week acquitted a Chatsworth man accused of sex crimes against his girlfriend’s 16-year-old daughter.

Public Defender Mike McCarthy said a jury heard the case in Judge Cindy Morris’ courtroom in Murray County Superior Court and deliberated parts of two days before finding Phillip Ray Cooper, 37, not guilty of rape and two counts of aggravated sodomy.

Records show the girl previously told authorities that Cooper woke her up in the middle of the night, made her watch pornography and forced her to have sex with him. McCarthy said Cooper’s defense was that the girl consented to the sex. He said a nurse who examined the girl after the alleged incidents testified the physical evidence left behind didn’t definitively show whether she was forced into sex acts or consented.

Assistant Public Defender Amanda McCoy, who along with Assistant Public Defender Betsy Flack represented Cooper, said parts of the girl’s story were inconsistent.

“One of the jurors told us (after the verdict was announced) there just wasn’t enough evidence,” McCoy said. “They didn’t really believe the victim because their story changed so many times.”

District Attorney Bert Poston said it’s not uncommon for victims to be inconsistent on some things, even when their overall story is true.

“People who have been through traumatic events, particularly sexual assaults, frequently do not remember the events with the crystal clarity that jurors sometimes expect of them,” Poston said. “Nevertheless, it is the jurors’ role in the criminal justice system to consider the credibility of the witnesses, including the victim, and to decide on a verdict.”

Cooper initially told officers he didn’t have any sexual contact with the girl, but DNA evidence later showed that he did, Poston said. McCoy said that’s true, but his defense has always been that the sex was consensual. In Georgia, adults can be charged if they commit sex acts with a person under 16, regardless of whether the person agrees to the acts.

“If she had been younger than that (16), then it would have been a crime because you can’t consent to any sexual contact under 16,” McCarthy said.

Cooper couldn’t immediately be reached for comment. Records show he is in the Catoosa County jail for probation violation on a forgery conviction.

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