A Cal Poly student accused of sexual assault was acquitted Wednesday afternoon in San Luis Obispo Superior Court following a single day of jury deliberation.
In the seven-day trial, jurors found too little evidence and too much doubt to convict Frank Nguyen, 21, of San Luis Obispo of sexual battery and penetration with a foreign object for a March 23 incident involving a female student.
The jury also split 8-4 over a lesser possible charge of simple battery, prompting Superior Court Judge Jacqueline Duffy to declare a mistrial on that count.
Nguyen let out a deep breath and smiled at his attorney, Patrick Fisher, as the verdict was read. His mother and friends seated behind him hugged and wiped away tears.
After the jury was excused, forewoman Alice Fisus said jurors felt the prosecution did not provide enough evidence in the case.
“There was a lot of reasonable doubt,” Fisus said before embracing a sobbing Nguyen as he left the courtroom.
Following the verdict, Assistant District Attorney Lee Cunningham wrote in an email that the District Attorney’s Office has no plans to refile charges based on the hung jury over the lesser charge of simple battery.
“We take very seriously our responsibilities in deciding what cases to file and take to jury trial, and we remain committed to seeking justice on behalf of sexual assault victims,” Cunningham wrote. “They are very difficult cases for everyone involved.”
Fisher could not be reached for comment on the verdict Wednesday afternoon.
Over the course of the trial, Deputy District Attorney Julie Antos said Nguyen met the alleged victim in the early morning of March 23 at her Poly Canyon Village apartment. After a late dinner, the pair went to watch a movie in her bedroom, where Nguyen allegedly held her down and fondled her after she told him to stop, Antos argued.
Nguyen only left the apartment after the woman began hyperventilating, Antos alleged.
Fisher repeatedly countered that the woman, who had met Nguyen about four months earlier through various Cal Poly clubs, lied about telling Nguyen to stop and only accused him of sexual assault after telling her ex-boyfriend of the incident.
The ex-boyfriend later gave differing answers when he testified at trial about whether he and the woman were dating during the time of the incident, ultimately saying they had recently broken up.
Fisher also argued that investigating officers made up their minds about Nguyen’s guilt before arresting him at his workplace and later confused him with rapid and aggressive questioning for two hours.
Had he been convicted, Nguyen could have faced eight years in state prison and would have been required to register as a sex offender.