UPDATED: Jury finds Clay Conaway Guilty of 4th Degree Rape

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Clay Conaway entering Sussex Superior Court / Image © WGMD/ML

UPDATED 9/27/19 – 2pm – A jury has found 23 year old Clay Conaway guilty of 4th degree rape after an incident on June 20, 2018.  Conaway met the victim on a dating app – but they two didn’t meet or talk face to face until their meeting on June 20th at his Georgetown home.  The jury heard testimony for 8 days from the medical and forensic experts, the victim’s friends, mother and the victim herself.  The jury also heard from Conaway from the video of his interrogation by Delaware State Police.  After deliberating for 3 hours today/Friday the jury came back with its verdict.  Judge Stokes will sentence Conaway at a later date – he faces up to 15 years in prison.  Defense attorney Joe Hurley is considering an appeal. 

Attorney General Kathy Jennings today released the following statement after a jury returned a guilty verdict against Clay Conaway for Rape 4th Degree:

“The message today is no means no. I am grateful for the jury’s decision, for the work of our excellent trial team, for the investigative work of the Delaware State Police, and especially for the survivor of Mr. Conaway’s rape, who throughout this trial endured needless disrespect and insinuations about her integrity. Going through this kind of trial takes incredible strength, and I recognize the courage of the survivor for putting herself under a microscope to ensure that justice was served.”

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UPDATED 9/26/19 – 6pm – Closing arguments should be completed Friday morning. On Thursday, Judge Stokes gave his instructions to the jury – then the State gave its closing statements saying the victim never wavered from her charge that Clay Conaway raped her. The defense will finish closing statements in the morning. Defense attorney Joe Hurley has pointed out many discrepancies in the victim’s testimony and that she sent mixed messages during her time with Conaway. While Conaway is charged with 1st degree rape – the jury could also consider 2nd or 4th degree rape.

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UPDATED 9/25/19 4pm – The attorneys for the State and Defense were back in court this afternoon to argue the a motion for acquittal and to decide if substantial pain was proved. The Defense argued that there was no expert testimony to establish injury or pain, and the accuser herself said her pain level was at 0 when she went to the hospital after the incident. They also argued that the State did not establish physical injury – only that two days later the victim returned to the hospital will hip pain, but there was never a cause attributed to the pain. The State argued that the victim herself told of pain while at the hospital – both times and that that was backed up by the ER nurse and doctor as well as the victim and her mother. Judge Stokes in his findings cited several rulings in the Delaware Supreme Court that showed the victim’s testimony was sufficient to evidence of pain and the extent of that pain. And in this case one would believe pain after the forceful impact between a 200 pound man and 100 pound woman. The judge denied the motion. The jury returns at 1pm Thursday for closing arguments and instruction from the judge before they retire to begin deliberations.

Clay Conaway is still charged with 1st degree rape. The decision by the jury must be unanimous.

UPDATED 9/25/19 12pm – The Defense has rested in the Clay Conaway rape trial – without Conaway taking the stand. Conaway’s mother returned to the stand this morning only to be dismissed. Detective Kristunas was recalled and questioned about his interviews with the victim – specifically about whether she had any difficulty walking, sitting or standing after the incident. She did return to the hospital two days after the incident complaining of sharp pain in her hips and was diagnosed with hip strain, however the detective with each question said no. Several pictures of the victim during a video interview at Troop 4 on June 26, 2018 showed her sitting at the table – with her legs crossed. The detective also told the State during cross that he reminded the victim that she had complained of pain – which the Defense brought up again – that he reminded her – she didn’t bring it up herself during the interview.

The jury will return for closing statements Thursday afternoon. However Judge Richard Stokes is expected to rule this afternoon on a defense motion made Tuesday for a reduction in the charged against Conaway because “substantial pain” has not been proven. Only the victim has discussed pain – but there has been no medical diagnosis to back it up. The defense is asking the charge be reduced from 1st degree rape to 2nd degree rape.

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UPDATED 9/24/19 7pm – The Clay Conaway rape trial has gone to the Defense. On Day 7, the interrogator became the interrogated as Detective David Kristunas of the Delaware State Police returned to the stand for cross examination. He was questioned by defense attorney Joe Hurley, first about the detective’s arrest and interrogation of Clay Conaway in August of 2018 and then about his two interviews with the victim – one at the hospital after the alleged rape and one several days later. The detective was the State’s final witness.

The Defense brought the victim’s friend back to the stand centering mostly on her friendship with the victim and their discussion in conversation and messages of Clay Conaway.

Clay Conaway’s mother took the stand and as she was asked about her family, when Defense Attorney Natalie Woloshin pointed to Conaway and asked who he was – she choked up and said that was Clay, her younger son. Her testimony centered on the pole barn where her son lives and a series of text messages between her and her son on the night of June 20th, when the alleged rape occurred. However there are gaps of time in their messaging over cars. The victim also told of the messages and conversation between Clay and his mother during her testimony last week. Cross examination of Conaway’s mother will take place Wednesday.

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UPDATED 9/23/19 8pm – The Clay Conaway rape trial continued today in Georgetown. Conaway is accused of 1st degree rape after an incident at his Georgetown home in June of 2018. He has pleaded not guilty.

This afternoon the jury heard for the first time from Clay Conaway – as video of his interview with Detective David Kristunas of the Delaware State Police Major Crimes Unit in Georgetown – was played. The Detective told Conaway that he has been indicted by a grand jury in a sexual assault investigation. As he began asking Conaway questions, he seemed to not know who his accuser was. He did remember their encounter and Conaway told the Detective that this was their first time meeting face to face – they were going to hang out and watch a movie. Multiple times during the questioning Conaway told the Detective “We never had sex,” although as the questioning continued more of the story emerged. Conaway became more nervous often covering his face with his hands and he did admit that maybe there was penetration and that he did ejaculate on her stomach.

Conaway several times said she was a sweet girl and did say that she had told him she didn’t want to have sex, but he says that she seemed into the way she was kissing him. Conaway told the Detective, “She never said to stop.”

Two more witnesses for the State took the stand this morning. Sarah Lindauer, who is senior forensic DNA analyst with the State Division of Forensic Science, explained how DNA evidence is collected and what happens with the evidence when it gets to her office. She added that she did not test all of the evidence submitted for DNA as they are not all relevant to her examination. She did test underwear and a variety of swabs from the woman’s vagina and abdomen. It was the abdomen swab that the swab taken from the victim’s abdomen matched a voluntary sample taken from Conaway.

Defense attorney Joe Hurley stressed that she found DNA belonging to Clay Conaway, but not sperm, and the DNA could have come from other sources – like skin, saliva or perspiration. However Lindauer said that there were specific chemicals in the sample that did indicate the presence of sperm.

The second witness was the victim’s mother. She told the State that her daughter was sad and tired after the incident occurred. Her mother said that she drove her daughter to the hospital two days later because of pain in her hips.

Another friend of the victim was called to the stand. She said they met freshman year at the University of Delaware and have been friends since. Her testimony focused around a text message that was sent just before the victim left Conaway’s home. When she tried to respond – several messages didn’t go through. When they did connect the victim called her friend, who said she was sobbing uncontrollably and told her “I think I was raped.”

The cross examination by the defense centered on the friend’s interviews with the Delaware State Police and whether or not they asked to look at her phone.

The trial will continue Tuesday morning in Superior Court in Georgetown.

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UPDATED 9/20/19 – 4:45pm – Just a half day in court today in the Clay Conaway rape trial – with the end of testimony from the accuser. Defense attorney Natalie Woloshin continued her cross examination of the victim focusing on statements made in her two interviews with the Delaware State Police and a written statement she wrote as a timeline of events as she remembered them occurring. Again she was asked to related the incident from start to finish as pictures of Conaway’s home were again shown to the court. And also to go through her interviews at the hospital with the sexual assault forensic nurse and DSP.

In redirect, Prosecutor Rebecca Anderson asked the victim about fibromyalgia, which she says she has symptoms of, but has never been diagnosed with. She says that she’s often very tired and aching in her muscles and joints. Anderson began a series of questions – Who decided to meet at Clay Conaway’s house? Who decided on the time? Who decided where they would go in his house? Who told her to get on the bed? Who told her to get under the covers? Who removed her clothing? Who told her when to leave? All were answered by the victim with “the defendant.”.

Those questions were countered by the defense with a series of questions as well. Who initiated contact with who on Bumble? Who initiated the switch to Snapchat? Who LOL’d at his penis picture? Who was so excited to match with a UD baseball player? Whose choice was it to go to Conaway’s home? Whose choice was is to go there knowing his parents were not home? Whose choice was it to go into the home voluntarily? Whose choice was it to kiss him open mouth? All of which the victim answered, “I did.”

Testimony from the victim concluded just before 2pm. The trial will resume Monday morning at 9:30.

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UPDATED 9/19/19 – 10pm – “Thursday started with testimony from ER Nurse and sexual assault forensic nurse, Dana Morris who described what someone coming into the emergency room at Beebe Medical Center would experience. And what is different in the event of a sexual assault patient. Morris then went on to answer questions in her handling of Clay Conaway’s accuser when she came to Beebe on June 20, 2018. Morris identified the victim through a picture and the clothing she was wearing – most of which was still in police evidence bags.

She explained information contained in the victim’s medical report and read from her comments from what she was told by the victim during the examination – which lasted for several hours. Morris said that the victim complained of discomfort or tenderness to her right wrist but no other pain or injury. She actually reported her pain level at 0 on a scale of 0 to 10.

The afternoon brought Clay Conaway’s accuser back to the stand as Defense attorney Natalie Woloshin continued her cross examination with dozens of text messages between her and her friends. Talking with her friends the victim was excited that she matched a UD baseball player and agreeing to meet with him just three weeks later – only contacting with him through social media. Woloshin then listed everything that the victim consented to – meeting Conaway without ever speaking to him, going to his home, knowing his parents were not home, going into his bedroom and getting on the bed and then under the covers. It wasn’t until he began removing her clothes that she questioned what was happening as he continued to force himself on her.

Court will resume Friday morning in Georgetown

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UPDATED 9/18/19 9:15pm – Day 3 – Testimony continued Wednesday morning from the victim in the Clay Conaway rape trial. The focus was on the day on the incident and text conversations with her friends Ceri and Gina. The victim was apprehensive of their meeting telling her friend, Gina, that Conaway is “completely out of my league.” The victim and Conaway had been chatting through Snapchat for about three weeks before the decided to meet. That meeting was set for June 20, 2018 at his home.

Prosecutor Rebecca Anderson asked the victim to describe what happened after she arrived at Conaway’s home around 6:30pm. She told the court that Conaway took her into his bedroom to watch a movie. They were both on the bed when he began to remove the victim’s clothes and when she got upset she says that he told her it was ‘no big deal – just messing around.’ However, she told the court that things escalated and Conaway had his hand on her throat and forced himself on her. Soon after he told her to go. The victim said she got dressed and got in her car and called Ceri who met her in the parking lot at Cape Henlopen High School where they talked and then went to the hospital.

While at the Beebe Medical Center, the victim was examined by a nurse and interviewed by police. She was a the hospital for several hours and during that time was messaged by Conaway asking if she got home ok and that he wanted to see her again – get to know her better. She never responded to Conaway. She did return to Beebe Medical Center two days later when she began having sharp pain in her hips that she said she’d never experienced before the alleged rape.

Cross examination was started by Defense Attorney Natalie Woloshin who asked about the two interviews the victim had with the Delaware State Police and who was with her during those interviews as well as her interviews with Rebecca Anderson of the prosecution. Additional text messages between the woman and her friend Gina were read that showed her reaction at being matched with Conaway in the Bumble app and that he was interested in meeting her. Through chat messages the friends discussed Conaway’s comments and pictures that he sent her in Snapchat – which included nude shots – just one day after she first contacted him. (The Bumble app requires the female to make the first contact).

The cross examination is expected to continue Thursday in Georgetown.

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UPDATED 9/17/19 – 8pm – Day 2 – The first witnesses took the stand today in the Clay Conaway rape trial in Georgetown – including Conaway’s accuser. The first person called to testify was 26 year old Brendan Goodson, who is a friend of the victim’s and one of the people she called after the alleged rape in June of 2018. He is also someone she met through social media but felt he was a friend and told him that she thought she’d been raped after her date with Conaway.

Clay Conaway and part of the Defense team heading to court / Image © WGMD/ML

Detective David Kristunas of the Delaware State Police was called to the stand to talk about his interviews with the witnesses – both Goodson and Ceri Karl, a friend of the victim’s from high school. His interview with Goodson wasn’t until August – over a month after the alleged rape.

High school friend Ceri Karl met with the victim after the alleged rape and talked with her in Karl’s car in the parking lot at Cape Henlopen High School before the victim agreed to go to the hospital. Karl stayed with the victim at the hospital and later drove her home and stayed with her there as well. The two spoke by text message and phone several times before the victim’s date with Conaway.

Defense attorneys questioned Karl’s testimony after learning that she had reviewed her recorded interview just this week with the prosecution team and the original interview didn’t take place until a month after the incident. Neither Karl nor Goodson have been interviews by police since.

The victim took the stand late in the afternoon. She described how she met Clay Conaway on the dating app Bumble and that their relationship grew using various social media before they finally agreed to meet several weeks later. Her testimony will continue Wednesday morning in Superior Court in Georgetown.

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UPDATED – 9-16-19 7pm- Day 1 – Jury selection in the Clay Conaway rape trial was completed just before lunch Monday with just four women seated in the panel of 12 and 4 alternates. During the afternoon session the jury heard opening statements from the state and defense. Casey Ewart from the AG’s office told the court that the victim met Clay Conaway through the online dating app Bumble. The app states that the female makes the first contact – so she contacted Conaway and they moved to Snapchat to chat. They exchanged messages for about 3 weeks and the victim agreed to meet at Conaway’s home. The primary issue is consent, which defense attorney Natalie Woloshin says can be shown by words – but also by conduct. Woloshin says the victim willfully met with Conaway and multiple text messages between her and friends show she was looking forward to their meeting. However prosecutor Ewart told the jury that the victim did agree to have sex with Conaway and texts between the victim and friends after the incident prove that it was not consensual.

Day 2 of the trial begins at 9:30 Tuesday morning with the first witness taking the stand in Courtroom 2 in Superior Court in Georgetown.

UPDATED 9-16-19 12pm – Jury selection still has not been completed. About 50 to 60 people were called in a second panel and selection began this morning. Opening statements should begin this afternoon.

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Opening statements are expected to begin Monday for a Georgetown man who was arrested for rape in June of 2018.  Clay Conaway, a former UD baseball player, was arrested on charges of 1st degree rape, but five additional victims came forward from incidents that occurred between 2013 and 2018.  However Conaway will not be tried for all 6 incidents at once – in July, Judge Richard Stokes granted a motion to sever the cases of the six different alleged victims – with the State deciding on the order of the trials.