Accused rapist's trial called off

Friday, October 28, 2011

By Karen Hall

Staff Writer

A man from New York who was due to go on trial for rape next week will not have to make another trip to Marshall County.

The decision was announced in Circuit Court Wednesday by Assistant District Attorney Eddie Barnard.

"The victim says she does not wish to proceed," Barnard told Judge Robert Crigler. Barnard said the victim told him that several weeks ago, but she was pretty emotional at the time, so Barnard arranged another meeting, with Marshall County Sheriff's Detective Bob Johnson present as well, just to be sure.

Once again, the victim said she did not want to proceed. The victim's testimony is essential for a rape case, so Barnard agreed not to prosecute.

William Joseph Gower, 39, of Randolph, N.Y., was indicted in September 2009, accused of raping the young woman while he was visiting friends in Marshall County earlier that year. He remained free on $30,000 bond and was represented by attorney John S. Colley III of Columbia.

Gower's trial was originally scheduled for June 2, but the victim failed to show up to testify.

A hearing was held in September to show cause why she should not be held in contempt of court.

Testimony at that time revealed that the victim was pregnant, and at risk of going into labor. She said she felt some contractions, so instead of going to court, she went to the doctor. A text message from her to a friend around noon the day of the trial was read in court.

"I'm at the hospital, and I shouldn't have to deal with this," the message said.

"I didn't feel like I could deal with it," the victim confirmed as she testified last month. "It's a very emotional case."

The prosecutor didn't dispute that, but in court this week he made another point.

"You've upset the judge and cost the taxpayers money," Barnard told the victim. He then went on to acknowledge that "her communication skills leave a lot to be desired" and stated that the taxpayers have been saved the cost of a trial.

"I'm asking the court to be a little gracious," Barnard said, asking Crigler to find her not guilty of contempt of court.

"You shouldn't have blown off the trial like you did," Crigler said, admonishing the woman, but he did find her not guilty of contempt.

"It's a bad precedent to set," the judge said, "But I don't think there was any malicious intent."