Anwar Phillips learns: No Man is Safe
Phillips, Paterno are off the hook
BELLEFONTE - Tara Brown arrived at the Centre County Courthouse at 7:45 a.m. yesterday, knowing this would be the day she would help chart the course of the rest of Anwar Phillips' life. In her early 20s, Brown had never served on a jury until this case, until she was bound by civic duty to determine if Phillips was guilty of sexual assault and aggravated indecent assault, until Phillips carried Joe Paterno's credibility into criminal court.
On the Penn State practice field yesterday afternoon, Paterno was preparing his team for Temple, while Phillips, the former Nittany Lions defensive back, cried and hugged his mother, Sharon, after Brown and 11 of her peers found him not guilty on both charges against him. But understand: Paterno, in a lesser way, was on trial yesterday just as Phillips was.
Paterno had left himself vulnerable to the charge of hypocrisy, playing Phillips in the Capital One Bowl on New Year's Day after Penn State had temporarily expelled him, after the county had filed criminal charges against him. Had Phillips been found guilty yesterday, the coach who so often holds himself up as the embodiment of integrity and honesty in college football would have left a stain on his legacy unlikely to be washed away.
Except there was no way Phillips was going to be found guilty. Not with this evidence. This was the entirety of Ray Gricar's case: the alleged victim's allegations. Her story. Nothing else. She was a Penn State student, living a happy life, until she met Anwar Phillips. The two had intercourse; that much was never in dispute. She testified she said no. He testified she was receptive to his advances, that she had consented. She was so traumatized by what Phillips did to her, Gricar said, that she transferred to another college. That should have been enough for a conviction, according to the prosecutor.
"I thought she was highly credible," said Gricar, Centre County's district attorney. "I thought the jury would believe her and not have a reasonable doubt about her account."
The jury did not. The jury heard two versions of what happened in a Penn State dorm room on the morning of Nov. 12, 2002: The accuser's and Phillips'. The jury heard nothing of Phillips's expulsion - it was deemed legally irrelevant - nothing of the swirl surrounding Paterno's decision. The jury heard Anwar Phillips's story, and that was enough for an acquittal. His status as a Penn State football player "wasn't necessary to bring up," one juror, Louise Gingher, said. "That had nothing to do with the case."
No, but it had everything to do with the attention the case drew. This was a scandal at Penn State. This was Joe Paterno thumbing his nose at his university. When the Phillips story broke, it seemed the ultimate act of arrogance for Paterno not only to play him in the Capital One Bowl but to sneer at the notion that he should have to explain why he played him. I excoriated him at the time, and I humbly stand corrected now.
I had argued that Paterno should not have played Phillips in the bowl game. Phillips' expulsion did not go into effect until the beginning of the spring 2003 semester, but by playing him, Paterno had violated the spirit of the school's decision. He didn't have to throw Phillips off the team; all he had to do was sit him for one game and let the gears of the judicial system grind.
Now, the statement by Penn State president Graham Spainer that Paterno's decision was incorrect seems premature, and Phillips's expulsion seems a grave injustice. I thought otherwise until yesterday, until I walked into the Centre County Courthouse and listened to the dearth of evidence presented by the prosecution. Until I watched Anwar Phillips sit in a stairwell by himself - his head in his hands, his future in the hands of 12 strangers - and realized that if they had convicted him, the jury members would have failed terribly.
After it was all over, after her long day of duty, Tara Brown tiptoed through the raindrops pelting this tiny town and talked of the jury's decision. When the 12 of them - 10 women, two men - began their deliberations, she said, 11 were immediately ready to vote not guilty. After 3 hours, 15 minutes, they persuaded the final, single holdout.
"We felt that the commonwealth didn't have enough evidence," Brown said. So there was no way they were going to send Anwar Phillips to jail, no way they were going to crush the credibility of Joe Paterno. No way.
Mike Sielski is a sports columnist for Calkins Media. He can be reached at msielski@....Jury acquits Lions' Phillips
BELLEFONTE, Pa. - Anwar Phillips is back on campus, acquitted by a jury of sexual-assault charges. Whether he will return to the Penn State football team is still unknown.
A Centre County jury deliberated about three hours yesterday before returning not-guilty verdicts on charges of sexual assault and aggravated indecent assault.
Phillips, a defensive back, shook his head silently as the verdict was read, then wept in the courtroom with his mother.
In his closing argument yesterday morning, defense attorney Tony DeBoef said the woman Phillips was accused of assaulting consented to sex but later regretted the decision, perhaps out of concern about pregnancy.
An examination at the university health service showed no physical signs of an assault.
Penn State's sports information director, Jeff Nelson, said the athletic department would neither comment on the verdict nor say whether Phillips would rejoin the team.
No sexual assault, says PSU's Phillips
Tuesday, August 26, 2003
By Dan Lewerenz, The Associated Press
BELLEFONTE, Pa. -- Penn State's Anwar Phillips acknowledged that he had sex with a female friend last fall, but denied sexually assaulting her.
Phillips' testimony at trial yesterday was the first public statement he has made regarding the accusation, which resulted in his temporary expulsion from the university. In March he was charged with sexual assault and aggravated indecent assault, both felonies.
On the stand, Phillips acknowledged that he engaged in sexual intercourse with the woman, who has since left the university. But he said the sex was consensual and that she had been the initiator.
In his opening statement, defense attorney Tony DeBoef said the woman had consented during sex, but changed her mind afterward. "In the cold, gray dawn of the morning, after this allegedly occurred, regret has probably moved into the picture," DeBoef said.
The woman, who was the first witness yesterday, said she and Phillips met during the summer of 2001, when both arrived early to start at Penn State. She began as a freshman with summer courses; Phillips first enrolled that fall.
She said that in the year and a half she knew Phillips they became close friends. He told her several times that he wanted to date her, she said, but she told him she wasn't interested.
The woman said Phillips had tried to kiss her Nov. 10, but that he backed off when she said she didn't want to. On Nov. 12, she said, Phillips came to her apartment in the morning and again tried to kiss her. At first, she rejected him; then she kissed him, she said, so as not to hurt his feelings.
She said Phillips then pushed her down onto her bed and began fondling and undressing her, even after she told him to stop. When she told him to stop, she said, he simply started touching a different part of her body.
She bristled when defense attorney Lee Nollau asked whether she ever told Phillips to stop entirely.
"If you say no, why should I have to clarify," she said. "Maybe it's just a different rule of sexual activity that I don't know about."
Phillips, when he took the stand, said the woman repeatedly had kissed him during their friendship and that she had initiated both November incidents. He said he didn't want to have sex with her that morning, but that every time they stopped she started up again.
Phillips said she asked him to stop when he began to initiate oral sex, and that he stopped. He said she reinitiated the sexual encounter, and that she did not object when he indicated he wanted intercourse.
"I would have stopped if she told me," Phillips said. "She didn't tell me anything."
After they had finished, Phillips said the woman became angry when he asked whether she used birth control.
While cross examining Phillips, Centre County District Attorney Ray Gricar read several portions of a police interview in which Phillips said the woman had asked him to stop. Phillips said those were references to oral sex, and that he had stopped then.
The defense planned to call its final witness today, and the jury is expected to get the case late this morning.
The case has generated tremendous criticism for Penn State Coach Joe Paterno, who allowed Phillips, a defensive back, to play in the Capital One Bowl against Auburn Jan. 1, nearly three weeks after Phillips was expelled. Although the expulsion hearing was Dec. 13, the expulsion was not set to take effect until the spring semester began in mid-January.
Neither Paterno nor Athletic Director Tim Curley has said when they learned of the accusations against Phillips, and Paterno still won't say whether Phillips will return to the team.
University President Graham Spanier has said Phillips should not have been allowed to play. Since then; university policies have been changed to require that the athletic director be notified personally of judicial proceedings involving student athletes.
Penn State player acquitted
Jury rules for Phillips in sexual assault case
Wednesday, August 27, 2003
By Dan Lewerenz, The Associated Press
BELLEFONTE, Pa. -- Anwar Phillips is back on campus, acquitted by a jury of sexual assault charges. Whether he will return to the Penn State football team is still unknown.
A Centre County jury deliberated about three hours yesterday before returning innocent verdicts on charges of sexual assault and aggravated indecent assault. Each charge could have carried a possible 10-year prison sentence and $25,000 fine.
Phillips shook his head silently as the verdict was read, then wept in the courtroom with his mother, Sharon Phillips, who was up from Germantown, Md., for the trial. They refused to speak with reporters as they left the courthouse.
"Obviously, the family and everyone involved in this case is very, very pleased," defense attorney Tony DeBoef said. "The truth came out when he had his day in court."
District Attorney Ray Gricar said he was "very surprised and disappointed, especially for the victim. I thought it was a very solid case and I expected a guilty [verdict]."
In his closing argument yesterday morning, DeBoef said the woman Phillips was accused of assaulting consented to sex, but later regretted the decision, perhaps out of concern about pregnancy. An examination at the university health service showed no physical signs of an assault.
"Obviously, [the woman] is upset. There is no dispute about that," DeBoef said. "On behalf of the defendant I'm going to offer to you that she was upset after this happened -- not during, not prior to."
With conflicting stories from Phillips and his accuser about what happened the morning of Nov. 12, jurors said, prosecutors didn't do enough to prove the sex was not consensual.
"Every time she told him to stop, they ended up on the bed cuddling again," juror Louise Gingher said.
"She told him to stop, and then she kissed him," juror Tara Brown said.
Phillips was accused of forcing sex on the woman, an acquaintance, in her on-campus apartment. In December, he was expelled from the university for two semesters -- the summer session counts as a semester -- and Phillips is enrolled in fall classes.
Jeff Nelson, Penn State's associate athletic director for media relations, said Coach Joe Paterno did not have a comment on Phillips' status with the team. In previous news conferences, when he has been asked if Phillips has been practicing with the team, Paterno has refused to answer the question.
Paterno and university officials have been criticized for their handling of the case, particularly for allowing Phillips to play in the Capital One Bowl, Jan. 1. Phillips was expelled Dec. 12, but the expulsion didn't take effect until the spring semester started in mid-January.
In April, university president Graham B. Spanier said Phillips should not have played and changed university policy to require that Judicial Affairs inform the athletic director whenever disciplinary action is taken against an athlete.
Phillips, a defensive back, played in all 13 Penn State games as a redshirt freshman last year, earning his first of two starts just four days after the alleged assault. He had 20 tackles, two interceptions and a fumble recovery.
Post-Gazette sports writer Ray Fittipaldo contributed to this report.