Editor’s Note: This story contains graphic sexual details some readers may find disturbing.
ITHACA, N.Y. — After closing statements Monday morning, the jury began deliberating the rape and sexual abuse charges Tompkins County Sheriff’s Deputy Scott Walters is facing. The jury will have to weigh testimony they heard all last week from the victim, defendant, investigators, experts and others, to decide whether Walters is guilty of sexually assaulting a woman who was physically helpless in February 2013.
Walters, 34, was indicted on charges of first-degree rape and sexual abuse, and the jury will also consider attempted rape. He was originally charged in 2017 along with another man, Matthew Pinney, who with a plea deal, ended up being a major witness in Walters’ trial.
Pinney testified Monday, Sept. 9, that he had “sexual intercourse” with the woman at Walters’ house after she had drinks made by Walters and appeared to become so “out of it,” she couldn’t talk or do much of anything. He testified that she was carried to the bedroom by Walters, and there he said he had sex with her while Walters “fondled” her.
Pinney’s testimony and whether it should be considered credible was a key part of closing statements for defense attorney Veronica Gorman and Schuyler County District Attorney, and special prosecutor, Joseph Fazzary.
Throughout closing statements Monday, Gorman drew attention to inconsistencies in testimony and the timeline — and especially noted the difference in notes taken by a New York State Police investigator that initially interviewed Walters in October 2017.
Last week, there was testimony about notes NYSP Inv. Jennifer Hahl took during his interview, in which she wrote Walters “may have” fingered the woman. But when Hahl prepared a more detailed account of her interview with Walters back at the station, she noted that Walters got nervous when Hahl told him that the victim had done a sexual assault evidence collection kit after the alleged incident. Hahl said Walters responded, “Well, that’s good. I didn’t have sex with her, but my DNA may be there. I fingered her.”
Addressing the jurors Monday about the notes, Gorman asked, “How does that happen? Does Investigator Hahl get the benefit of a whoops or two oopses? … Does my client get those same benefits?”
Going over the evidence that Walters raped the woman, she said Walters has denied having sexual intercourse with the woman who has accused him of rape. She also said the woman does not have any specific memory that Walters had sex with her, and there is also no DNA evidence because the woman did not want a rape kit done when she went to the hospital. Though she allegedly swabbed her vagina after the incident, it was never recovered or tested.
She drew doubt on who she called the prosecution’s “star witness,” Matthew Pinney, who got a plea deal in exchange for testifying in Walters’ trial.
A woman he was also in a relationship with at the time of the alleged incident also testified during the trial on a conversation she was part of with Walters, in which Walters was allegedly discussing the charges, saying “I can’t believe this is happening to me because I had sex with a whore. She’s ruining my life because I had sex with her.”
Gorman said both Pinney and the woman have a motive to lie. For testifying in this trial, Pinney gets to plead guilty to attempted forcible touching, a misdemeanor and will get one year of probation. During the trial, he testified that he raped the woman and Walters was there.
“One-year probation for a man who, if you believed him when he testified at this trial, just got a Class B misdemeanor for raping a physically helpless woman. Does that make sense? You could smell the desperation in this courtroom when he testified. All his other plans failed, trying to pay (the victim) off to get her to settle his part of the case … you know who never offered her money? My client. Then he sues her civilly, right? Sues for defamation and emotional distress. Do you know who never sued her civilly? My client,” Gorman said.
But now, she said, with this new plea, he testified that he lied all those other times in court.
“He wants you to believe what he’s saying in this trial. Why? Why did he need this? Because otherwise, the prosecution’s case is paper-thin. You can see through it,” she said.
Gorman told jurors that what Walters has testified to has been supported by evidence. She said he testified to fondling her chest, “that’s all.” And like in opening statements, Goreman said Pinney, Walters and the woman had a consensual threesome.
However, Prosecutor Joseph Fazzary challenged that and pointed to some discrepancies in the case. One that he considered a “major” discrepancy was that Walters testified the woman seemed sober when she left his house. Walters testified that she walked across the yard toward Pinney’s house after she started getting calls from her then-husband. Walters’ father, Jeffrey Walters, who was living on the property at the time, also corroborated that testimony.
However, her ex-husband testified that he found her passed out in her car in Pinney’s driveway and she was a “wreck.” He said he had to carry her into the house, and her daughter testified to that as well.
Fazzary began his address to jurors stating, “If for one second, you believe that (the woman) made this whole thing up, that she somehow fabricated this entire thing, your job’s really going to be easy when you go back to the deliberation room.”
He posed several questions about why the woman would make up accusations of rape – why she would accuse a cop and a neighbor who were acquaintances, and also why if she was making up the story, why she wouldn’t make it up in a more “significant fashion.” Instead of saying she only has “snapshot memories, why not “go big” and provide clearer details? Fazzary asked jurors.
He said the bigger question is, “Why did she come forward at all?” Though the alleged incident occurred in February 2013, she did not come forward until October 2017 after she said she heard there might be video evidence. “Why would she cry rape if she knew the video was going to show she was participating in consensual activity?”
A close friend of Walters and Tompkins County Sheriff’s Deputy, Zachary Starner, testified Friday that he saw surveillance video of the night that was recorded at Walters’ house. He said he watched it in June 2013 and saw one of the men kiss the woman and said she seemed “very flirtatious.” When questioned by Fazzary, Starner said he never told New York State Police about the video or cooperated in their investigation of Walters.
Addressing Pinney and his testimony, Fazzary said, “Let’s face it, he’s a creep. … He got a good deal. I’m not asking you to accept that deal.” He said he is asking jurors to look at his testimony and decide whether it’s truthful.
Recapping evidence he felt was key, he said Pinney admitted in open court that he raped the woman. He also said she told a friend after that she was drugged and raped, and she told the same thing to a nurse at the hospital a day later.
He said what happened was the woman became an object to Pinney and Walters that night.
“The oldest defense in criminal cases is she’s a whore. She was just a whore that night. That’s what they want you to believe,” Fazzary said.
Jurors now must weigh the evidence and credibility of all the witnesses. They deliberated for about four hours on Monday before being dismissed until Wednesday morning.