Cops and Courts

Former football player found not guilty of sexual assault

Vincent David Chukwudi-Okoli, 19, of Germantown, Md., was found not guilty of second-degree sexual assault after a multi-day trial before Judge Cindy Scott in Monongalia County Circuit Court.

Chukwudi-Okoli, a former West Virginia University football player, was charged with the assault in February 2021, according to court documents. 

The jury of six men and six women delivered their verdict Friday afternoon after deliberating since late Thursday.

During their deliberations Friday morning, the jury requested copies of transcripts relating to testimony given during the trial.  After a short discussion with prosecution and defense attorneys, Scott said the testimonies could not be reheard at this stage and jurors were instructed to rely on their memories.

Shortly after, jurors informed the court they were at an impasse with some unwilling to change their decisions.

Scott brought the jurors back into the courtroom and read them an Allen charge, which refers to jury instructions given to a hung jury urging them to agree on a verdict.  

The judge made it clear, however, that the court cannot force a verdict and jurors should not surrender or sacrifice their own opinion to achieve a unanimous decision.  She added that there was no reason to think that a different jury of 12 could decide the case more easily.

After several more hours of deliberation – and a lunch break – the jury was able to reconcile and delivered the not guilty verdict.

Once the verdict was delivered, Scott polled each juror individually to ensure the decision was unanimous and released the jurors.

Local defense attorney Belinda Haynie and attorney Thomas Pavlinic of Premier Defense Group, who represented Chukwudi-Okoli, were happy with the jury’s decision.

Pavlinic said this case was a typical he-said, she-said case and with the evidence presented it could have gone either way.

“We were convinced the jury was going to follow the reasonable doubt instructions,” he said.   “That means they didn’t have to determine that she was telling the truth or David was telling the truth.  They just had to look at the evidence.

“And we felt that because the complainant had made some statements – omitted some crucial evidence to the police – we thought that was going to play a significant role in the outcome,” he said.

Chukwudi-Okoli showed relief as the verdict was delivered and once adjourned, family members could be seen with tears of joy outside the courtroom as they thanked defense attorneys.

Chukwudi-Okoli still has a pending burglary charge in Monongalia County and could not be immediately released from custody.  Once the $10,000 bond for that charge is posted, he will be released from jail.

Scott ruled Chukwudi-Okoli can return to his home in Maryland with the understanding he must stay in his home county and only travel to meet with attorneys and for future court appearances.  A request for a bond reduction for the burglary charge was denied.

Chukwudi-Okoli was part of the 2020 WVU football recruiting class, but did not play as a true freshman in 2020.  He entered the transfer portal in March 2021.