Ex-football player found not guilty
Written by By BILL RYAN/Sentinel Staff Writer
Wednesday, 24 June 2009 19:50
A jury of five men and seven women found Jacob Hardwick not guilty of both robbery and aggravated burglary on Wednesday.
Hardwick, 21, of Virginia Beach, Va., was the final of three former Bowling Green State University football players charged with robbery and aggravated burglary in regards to a June 2, 2008 incident at a Klotz Road apartment.
The three-day trial was held in the courtroom of Wood County Common Pleas Court Judge Reeve Kelsey.
Orlando Barrow and Tarell Lewis, Hardwick's roommates at the time of the incident, both had previously pleaded guilty to similar charges and are both serving a prison sentence.
In addition to two of the victims who were in the apartment at the time of the break-in, both Barrow and Lewis testified during the trial. Both implicated Hardwick from the witness stand.
The defendant, who had remained stoic throughout the trial, sobbed deeply and at length after Kelsey read the verdict.
Defense attorney Paul Skaff argued during his summation the state had not proven its case because of the volume of half-truths provided during testimony.
"I'll let the verdict speak for itself," Skaff said afterwards.
Hardwick did not take the stand; in fact, the defense rested without calling any witnesses.
One of the challenges for the jury was that all three men who entered that apartment were wearing full masks and dark clothing. The victims therefore could not identify their invaders. In addition, testimony indicated two of the men were wearing gloves and Barrow testified he had not touched anything in the apartment so no fingerprint evidence was available.
Though Hardwick's DNA was found on one of the sweatshirts from the crime, as his co-defendants were his roommates, there was no verifiable proof as to when that DNA may have been placed on the clothing.
"We were very conflicted," juror Justin Crawford, Bowling Green, said after the verdict. "But we felt very strongly we could not find him guilty within the constraints provided in the jury instructions."
Skaff addressed one of those instructions in his summation to the jury regarding the testimony of the co-defendants.
"Their testimony must be viewed with great suspicion," Skaff quoted the required instruction.
Both Lewis and Barrow testified they had told Gregg Brandon, the Falcon head football coach at the time, they were the three involved. All three were subsequently suspended from the university.
Members of the jury indicated they would have liked to have heard testimony from Brandon along with the fourth roommate of the men.
Skaff also noted the many inconsistencies in the testimony.
In her summation Melissa Freeman, assistant prosecutor, argued that of course there were inconsistencies due to the heightened situation and the time frame.
She outlined how both Lewis and Barrow had taken responsibility for their actions and noted agreements from both to testify in this case.
"We're asking you to hold the defendant responsible for his actions," Freeman summarized.
The jury deliberated for more than five hours before returning with the unanimous "not guilty" on both charges Hardwick was facing.
Wood County Prosecutor Paul Dobson attempted to counter Skaff's arguments during his summation, noting that it was Skaff who provided the half-truths regarding what the prosecution termed "a criminally stupid act."
Kelsey previously had sentenced both Barrow and Lewis to four years on each of their charges, with those to be served concurrently. However, both men could be free this summer through a judicial release.
Last Updated on Thursday, 25 June 2009 10:27