The jury found them not guilty on all charges: two counts each of rape and one count each of kidnapping.

By Jordan Laird

A Franklin County jury on Thursday found two former Ohio State University football players not guilty of raping a female student in 2020 at a Northwest Side apartment. Amir I. Riep and Jahsen L. Wint, both 24, were defensive players for the football team when a then-19-year-old woman in her freshman year at Ohio State accused them of raping her on Feb. 4, 2020.

The jury found them not guilty on all charges: two counts each of rape and one count each of kidnapping.

Riep and Wint broke down crying and embraced after the jury verdict was read.

Defense attorneys Dan Sabol and Sam Shamansky, who represented Riep and Wint, respectively, argued during the trial that the woman had consensual sex with both men but regretted it afterward, and accused the victim’s father of pushing his daughter and authorities to pursue criminal charges.

Afterward, Riep and Wint told The Dispatch they are relieved and grateful to the jury for giving them their lives back.

“I’m going to get my life back on track, get my degree and keep on being a law-abiding citizen,” Wint said.

Wint completed his degree in human development at Ohio State in 2020 but the university withheld his degree pending the outcome of this trial. Riep is majoring in sports management and has two semesters left at Ohio State before he graduates.

“I’m grateful,” Riep said of the verdict. “And you grow through what you go through.”

Franklin County Assistant Prosecutor Daniel Meyer declined to comment to The Dispatch after the verdict.

Meyer said during the trial that the woman went to the apartment shared by the men expecting to just hang out with Riep, but both men violently raped her at the same time.

The Dispatch does not publish the names of alleged sexual violence victims without their consent.

Shamansky said Wint and Riep have had their lives upended by a false accusation.

“He’s had his life turned on end by a false accusation with evidence that was so lacking in credibility that charges should never been brought,” Shamansky said of Wint.

Sabol said Riep’s account has never changed.

“The jury did a fantastic job discerning the truth and contrasting what Amir said and what his accuser said,” Sabol said. “It took a long time, but the system worked.”

Testimony: OSU football players told to get evidence of sexual consent

A key piece of evidence in the case was a cellphone video Riep took of the alleged victim which was played in court. The short video is visually dark, but captured the sound of the woman saying she’s crying and then agreeing after Riep asks if the sex was consensual.

Riep and a witness, Lloyd McFarquhar, another former Ohio State football player who played defensive back and on special teams, testified Wednesday during the trial that players were told to get evidence that their sexual partners consented to protect themselves from any possible future issues.

Riep and McFarquhar, who just finished his fifth season with the team, did not testify who on the Buckeyes staff told them or other Ohio State players to do this.

Ohio State football team spokesman Jerry Emig initially declined to comment Wednesday to The Dispatch on whether university staff has ever instructed athletes about getting a video record or other evidence of consent from their sexual partners.

Shortly before 5 p.m. Wednesday afternoon, Emig sent a statement to The Dispatch by email: “In general, when the Department of Athletics speaks with student-athletes about consent, we work closely with subject matter experts on campus and follow the university’s well established Non-Discrimination, Harassment, and Sexual Misconduct Policy.”

“You’ll see that page one of the policy defines consent as, ‘permission that is clear, knowing, voluntary, and expressed prior to engaging in and during an act. Consent is active, not passive. Silence, in and of itself, cannot be interpreted as consent. Consent can be given by words or actions, as long as those words or actions create mutually understandable clear permission regarding willingness to engage in (and the conditions of) sexual activity.'”

Sabol, Riep’s defense attorney, played four short videos in court on Wednesday which he said show instances from 2018 and 2019 when Riep recorded women after sex. In the four videos, the women are clothed or not on camera and agree when Riep asks if what they did was consensual.

Riep testified he told one of the women before recording, “I’m on the football team and this is something that we just are taught to do to protect ourselves. It’s nothing against you.”

Riep played for Ohio State for three seasons (2017 to 2019) and Wint played for four seasons (2016 to 2019) before Ohio State head football coach Ryan Day dismissed both players from the team days after the rape charges were filed against them, saying they had failed to live up to the standards of Day and the program.

Sabol and Shamansky in court compared their clients’ calm demeanors on the stand to the alleged victim’s tearful testimony, pointing out inconsistencies between what she told authorities three years ago and on the stand during trial.  

During closing arguments, Meyer told the jury the woman was the victim of a “brutal gang rape” and urged jurors to compare the four videos Sabol presented with the video of the alleged victim. 

“One of these things is not like the others. Listen to what those other women say, their voices, their demeanor, what they say and how they say it,” Meyer said.

The jury deliberated less than four hours between Wednesday and Thursday morning before reaching its verdict.

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