After a day’s trial before a jury in Louisa County Circuit Court on Dec. 6, Brandon Ford, 22, of Bumpass was found not guilty of three charges of sodomy and one of strangulation.
The case involved a sexual assault on May 1, 2017. The victim did not report it to authorities until 2018.
Prosecutors alleged that Ford had called the victim, who was 19 at the time, and asked her to meet him to talk. The victim said she knew Ford through their volunteer work for an area fire department, and that he had asked her to help him study for his upcoming fire and emergency medical technician exam.
After they met, Ford drove the victim to a sparsely populated area where the assault occurred, Robert Wood, deputy commonwealth’s attorney, said. The victim said she wasn’t going to report the incident until the defendant began dating someone in her family and “[the victim] was afraid he’d do the same to her.”
Stephen Harris, Ford’s attorney, challenged almost every part of the prosecution’s version of events, including the date the incident happened.
The defense’s witnesses included six peers and mutual friends of both the victim and defendant. They testified about events on the night of the alleged assault, other interactions with both parties and what they claimed to know about the victim’s reputation.
When asked about the victim’s reputation for telling the truth, one of the defense witnesses described it as “less than honorable.”
Ford testified in his own defense. He said he knew the victim socially, and that he had never had any physical contact with her, nor had he been romantic toward her in any way.
Wood questioned Ford about dates he had provided to investigators about his previous relationships, which he struggled to recount consistently. He was also asked how he responded to sheriff’s office Det. Mark Foster during his initial questioning, when Foster asked if he knew the victim.
“I said I knew of her,” Ford responded.
Wood repeatedly questioned the accuracy of that statement as he presented pages of private messages on Facebook between the defendant and victim that had taken place prior to the alleged assault.
Harris asserted that the victim claimed wrongly that the incident occurred on a night when a dinner was scheduled at Bethany Christian Church in Bumpass. He said the monthly dinner was actually a week later.
In his closing argument, Wood claimed that in order to commit the crime, Ford had sought to “isolate, intimidate, and overpower” the victim. The prosecutor also presented several instances in which Ford appeared to change his story or contradict previous testimony. The raw emotion exhibited by the victim and her family during testimony was itself corroboration, he argued.
Harris said both the defendant and victim were “big people,” questioning how Ford could have committed such a crime in the cab of a truck. He said he had proven the victim was not credible.
After less than an hour of deliberation, the jury returned its verdict to gasps of elation and shock from people attending the trial.