ST. JOSEPH — Antonio Lucas hugged his team of lawyers and said, “Oh my goodness, thank you all so much” after he was acquitted on all counts in Berrien County Trial Court Friday.
Lucas was on trial in Judge Angela Pasula’s courtroom this week on 15 counts, including four counts of varying degrees of criminal sexual conduct, eight counts of varying degrees of assault, two weapons charges and one count of possession of a firearm by a felon.
The jury of seven women and five men deliberated for about two hours Friday before returning the not guilty verdicts.
“We are thankful for the jury reaching a just verdict,” Assistant Public Defender Stephanie Farkas said outside the courtroom after court was adjourned. Assistant Public Defender Jennifer Fields was the other lawyer defending Lucas.
Berrien Assistant Prosecutor and Chief Trial Attorney Jeffrey Taylor declined comment.
Lucas, who was on parole for a previous felony conviction, was accused of brutally raping and assaulting a woman on numerous occasions between April 9, 2018, and June 26, 2018. The woman said she’d been romantically involved with him previously but had ended the relationship in March of that year. She claimed Lucas would not leave her alone, and kept coming to her apartment and assaulted her.
Lucas was on GPS tether at the time and admitted to his parole agent that he was at the alleged victim’s apartment during the time he was supposed to be at work. He said he had called in sick.
Throughout the trial, the jury heard from the alleged victim, from Lucas’ current girlfriend and another ex-girlfriend. Yendorii Lewis, the current girlfriend; and Angela Joyner, the ex-girlfriend, testified that the alleged victim kept calling and messaging Lucas and was at times aggressive. They said she did not like that he was seeing other women.
Friday morning, the jury heard recordings of phone calls Lucas made to Lewis two nights ago, in the middle of his trial. All inmate phone calls at the jail are recorded. Taylor was allowed to introduce the recordings into evidence because during his questioning of her Thursday, Lewis admitted on the witness stand that Lucas had called her. She said, however, that they had not discussed his case. Friday morning she was called back to the witness stand and admitted that was not true.
In one of the calls, Lucas asked Lewis to tell Joyner what to say when she testified the next day. In the recording, he can be heard saying “tell her to testify that she liked being choked during sex, but he (Lucas) wouldn’t do that.” The alleged victim had testified earlier that on numerous occasions, he had choked her while raping her.
All the witnesses for Lucas’ trial were under a sequestration order, meaning they could not be in the courtroom during each other’s testimony and they could not speak to Lucas or other witnesses during the trial.
“Those phone calls were an obstruction of justice. He got people to come in here and lie to you. That reflects no respect for the truth of the justice system,” Taylor told the jury in his closing argument.
In her closing argument, Public Defender Stephanie Farkas said the case was about anger, jealousy and manipulation, and that Lucas was an innocent man falsely accused by a woman scorned.
She said there were a number of inconsistencies in her testimony, and called her “a liar.”
“The police didn’t do a thorough investigation. They didn’t get all the texts from her phone. She’s the one that had the control of what they saw, what they got to evaluate,” Farkas told the jury.
She said the alleged victim provided to police only some messages, mostly ones Lucas had sent to her. But phone records show numerous text messages and/or phone calls back and forth between the two on the days she says assaults occurred. Farkas said the investigating police officer never interviewed anyone living in or near the apartment building where the alleged victim lived.
In his closing argument, Taylor asked the jury not to lose sight of the fact that the alleged victim was not on trial, nor were the police or Lucas’ parole officer.
Contact: jswidwa@TheHP.com, 932-0359, Twitter: @HPSwidwa