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Carlson acquitted of all charges

A Zumbrota man accused of raping his ex-girlfriend was acquitted Wednesday afternoon of both charges brought against him.

Joseph Daniel Carlson, 19, was found not guilty of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and third-degree criminal sexual conduct.

First Judicial Judge Thomas Bibus dismissed the case after the verdicts were read.

"I wasn't surprised," Carlson said outside the courtroom Wednesday. "I put my whole faith, I put it all in God."

Looking forward, Carlson said he will work the rest of the summer at his current job and then enlist in active duty in the Army. Carlson had enlisted in the Army Reserves previously, but his military career had been put on hold due to the charges against him.

Carlson was initially charged with first-degree criminal sexual conduct and third-degree criminal sexual conduct in a Goodhue County Court complaint filed July 16, 2012.

In it, Carlson was accused of inviting his ex-girlfriend -- who was then 17 years old -- to his mother's house in Pine Island. The complaint then states that he held the girl down and raped her.

Carlson pleaded not guilty to both charges in September.

The jury trial, which began with opening statements May 9, included testimony from the girl's mother, her friend, police inspectors and medical professionals who deal with sexual assault. Carlson and the girl also took the stand.

During opening and closing arguments, both Assistant Goodhue County Attorney Erin Kuester and defense attorney Doug Bayley discussed text messages that Carlson and the girl sent to each other and to other friends before and after the incident.

"She texted with a friend shortly after she got home (after the incident)," Bayley said during closing arguments, going on to read one message the girl sent: "I fooled around with my ex Joe ... .

"It was consensual sex," Bayley continued. "(The girl) said it: 'I fooled around with my ex.'"

But Kuester read messages that Carlson had sent to a friend after the incident in which he described sex with the girl.

"The text messages show there was no consent," Kuester said. "(Her) body didn't respond."

The girl's injury was also heavily discussed. During closing arguments Tuesday morning, Kuester reminded jurors that medical professionals had testified that the injury was consistent with forced vaginal intercourse.

But Bayley pointed out that those professionals had also stated that it was possible that the injury could have resulted from consensual sex.

The jury, made up of seven women and five men, were dismissed for deliberation at about 10:30 Tuesday morning. They were back in the courtroom with a verdict by 1:30 Wednesday afternoon.

This is the second time that Carlson's case has come before jurors. In January, a jury of two women and 10 men deliberated for about seven hours after that weeklong trial. They failed to come to a unanimous decision and a mistrial was declared.

Sarah Gorvin
Sarah Gorvin has been with the Republican Eagle for two years and covers education, business and crime and courts. She graduated from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities in 2010 with a  journalism degree.