By Joe Johnson
A 2018 Oconee County rape case that had been mired in controversy from prosecutorial misconduct this week was dismissed on a motion by a new prosecutor from a different judicial circuit, according to Superior Court records.
The case of the State of Georgia vs. Rahul Joseph Das came to a halt on Sept. 2 when the judge granted a mistrial on a claim by the defense of prosecutorial misconduct and the defense subsequently filed a motion to dismiss the case.
A prosecution motion stating that the case could not be proven due to the errors was granted Tuesday by Superior Court Judge Lawton Stephens.
In the motion to dismiss, Deshala Dixon, chief attorney for the Augusta Judicial Circuit DA’s Special Victims Unit, stated that though the alleged victim claimed to have been raped at a party on Aug. 26, 2018, she admitted that her memory was unclear due to intoxication.
The same motion argued the case should be dismissed because during a rape exam performed three days after the alleged assault, "informed the nurse that apart from the assault, she had not had sex in the past 5 days.
Swabs from the student’s genitals and clothing she wore on the night in question were examined at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation State Crime Lab found the DNA from two different males, circumstances for which she had no explanation, the motion to dismiss stated.
The case at issue is that of Rahul Das who, when a 17-year-old senior at Oconee County High School, attended a house party where alcohol was consumed on Aug. 26, 2018 along with other schoolmates, including one who two days after the party accused Das of raping and sodomizing her.
The alleged victim underwent a forensic examination provided by Athens-Clarke County Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners, Inc. (SANE), during which she said she had no other sex within five days of the alleged assault, according to Das’s attorney Morris “Mo” Wiltshire said.
The alleged victim was also interviewed by a police detective, and on Sept. 6, 2018 Das was arrested on charges of rape and aggravated sodomy.
In the meantime, it was determined at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s State Crime Lab that DNA samples collected from the victim during the SANE exam had come from “several different individuals, but none from the defendant,” Wiltshire said.
The defense attorney said that DNA evidence recovered from her underwear contained genetic material of at least three male individuals, one of whom was alleged to have been the defendant.
When interviewed by an investigator, the girl said the shared the underwear with her mother and she did not know if they had been washed, according to a transcript of the interview.
After the case finally went to trial in September, the complaining witness testified that she had engaged in consensual sex the day after she claimed she was assaulted by Das, which Wiltshire said would have been a point in time preceding the day she had the SANE exam.
“This information directly contradicted the testimony of the SANE nurse examiner who had testified that she had questioned the complaining witness about consensual sex partners and had been told there were none,” Wiltshire said. “It was also not contained in her forensic interview that was conducted with investigators on August 29, 2018, nor was it in the written statement that she prepared for investigators dated August 30, 2018.”
During her testimony, the alleged victim identified by name the person she claimed to have had consensual sex with, Wiltshire said, and during cross-examination she revealed that she had shared the name of that person with Schollmeyer prior to trial.
It was at that point, Wiltshire said that he asked for and was granted a mistrial “with prejudice” due to prosecutors deliberately withholding evidence that was favorable to his client and that they were required by law to disclose, thereby depriving him of a fair trial.
“The prosecutor’s failure to disclose this information prevented the defendant from having an opportunity to identify, interview, test or subpoena this person and supposed source of the DNA that is so much at issue in this case,” the defense attorney said.
The judge then removed the jury from the courtroom to hold a hearing on when prosecutors learned of this information.
“During the course of this hearing, prosecutor Robert Schollmeyer misled the court when he denied having been told the information by the witness and then, shortly thereafter, reversed himself when it was pointed out to him that as the witness had just testified that she told him the name and if that was false, it would mean that his witness had just fabricated her testimony,” Wiltshire said. “Schollmeyer then admitted he had indeed heard the name, but maintained he had only heard the first name and not the full name. He also claimed that he had never asked the witness for the name of the person. He admitted he had learned of this information well before trial, roughly 10 days before, and had failed to make diligent inquiry into the matter and to disclose it to the defense as required.
“When it was revealed that the prosecutor had deliberately concealed information that he was required to disclose to enable the defendant to have a fair trial, I made a motion for mistrial with prejudice,” Wiltshire said. “I asked the judge to find that the prosecutor had committed misconduct and had sought to and actually deprived the defendant of his ability to have a fair trial by intentionally withholding this evidence, that jeopardy had attached as we were already in the middle of a trial, and that a continuance would not provide sufficient remedy to rectify the misdeeds of the prosecutor.”
Stephens granted the motion, finding that the prosecutor had willfully committed prosecutorial misconduct by withholding material evidence that was necessary for the defendant to receive a fair trial, and that this violation required a mistrial.