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Jury acquits Lewiston man of rape

ASOTIN – A Lewiston man was set free Wednesday after an Asotin County jury acquitted the former nurse on charges of second-degree rape and indecent liberties.

Brian J. Turner, 44, breathed a sigh of relief when the verdict was announced in Asotin County Superior Court, knowing he wouldn’t spend another night behind bars.

“I’m just glad it’s over,” Turner said.

His attorney, Thomas Ledgerwood, was teary-eyed as he waited for his client’s release order to be signed.

“I’m gratified,” said the longtime Clarkston defense attorney. “I have faith in the jury system, and my faith was again upheld.”

Several employees of Prestige Care appeared surprised by the outcome. A few had testified about an incident on Nov. 20 that led to Turner being accused of exposing his genitals and having oral sex with a 69-year-old woman who has dementia.

A certified nursing assistant said she was “100 percent certain” she saw Turner holding his genitals near the face of the wheelchair bound-resident. However, one of the defense’s key factors was that she didn’t witness any actual contact.

Turner, who took the stand Wednesday morning, denied any inappropriate conduct with the woman.

“Absolutely not,” Turner said, when asked if he and the woman were intimate.

During closing arguments, Asotin County Prosecutor Ben Nichols said the alleged victim told police and various Prestige Care employees she and Turner kissed multiple times and engaged in sexual activity on the day the incident was reported.

Flattered by the nurse’s attention, the woman was easy prey but lacked the mental capacity to consent, the prosecutor said. Turner was aware of the resident’s limitations and had ample opportunity to take advantage of her because he frequently was alone in her room, in violation of the nursing home’s policy.

Turner said he frequently talked with the woman and told her she was pretty, but said the compliments were only meant to brighten her day. He enjoyed interacting with many residents in a similar manner and listening to their life stories.

“You should make people feel good about themselves,” Turner told the jury.

Nichols said Turner had been warned about sexual misconduct at the nursing home and should be held accountable on the charges filed against him.

The defendant acknowledged he was counseled about making inappropriate sexual comments to co-workers, but denied any improper activities with residents.

Ledgerwood said the case involved too much speculation and reasonable doubt for a conviction on felony charges of rape and indecent liberties.

Based on the evidence, the attorney said there was no way the jury could be absolutely sure Turner and the woman had a sexual encounter on Nov. 20.

“What do we have when we weigh the scales of justice?” Ledgerwood said. “They are wobbly. It’s a wobbly case. We don’t convict people when we have wobbly evidence.”

The seven-man, five-woman panel deliberated about two hours before returning to Judge Scott D. Gallina’s courtroom with the verdict.

Turner, who spent the last six months in jail, was looking forward to walking out the door without handcuffs.


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