A Manhattan investment banker was acquitted Wednesday of charges that he raped an Irish tourist at the East Hampton house he was renting two summers ago.
Suffolk County Court Judge Barbara Kahn found Jason Lee, 38, not guilty of first-degree rape and two misdemeanors after a nonjury trial. Lee did not react to the verdict in the courtroom and did not comment afterward.
Kahn told a packed courtroom that she was not required to state the basis of her verdict, "and I will not do so."
But she pointed out that in all criminal trials it is the prosecution's "heavy burden" to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt.
"The defendant is not required to prove he's not guilty," she said. Lee did not testify during the trial. He faced a maximum of 25 years in prison if convicted.
"This was a false accusation," one of his attorneys, Edward Burke Jr. of Sag Harbor, said afterward. "We're very troubled it went this far."
Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota said he has the "greatest respect" for the judge but disagreed with the ruling.
"Reasonable people will differ," Spota said. "The evidence proves the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt."
Prosecutors said that after a night of drinking, Lee pushed his way into a bathroom and raped a 20-year-old woman on the floor. The woman, who came from Ireland to testify and went home the next day, said she was changing back into her dress when Lee barged in naked and knocked her to the floor.
She said she tried to scream, but Lee muffled her with the back of his hand. A friend of hers who was there testified she heard nothing from the bathroom, but saw the woman was upset when she came out.
Kahn noted that the woman's brother refused to come from Ireland to testify, but Spota said his testimony wouldn't have made a difference either way.
The case was covered extensively by Irish and New York media.
After the police were called that morning, Lee hid in the backseat of his Land Rover and called taxi companies. Prosecutors said he was trying to flee, but defense attorney Andrew Lankler of Manhattan said Tuesday his client was trying to get taxis for his loud and drunk guests.
Lee, who worked for Goldman Sachs at the time, met the woman and her brother and friends while celebrating his 37th birthday at a Wainscott nightclub. They drank for hours there, and continued drinking when they returned to the house, the woman and other witnesses testified.
At the house, the woman testified she and a female friend stripped to their underwear and jumped into a backyard pool while Lee ran around naked in the backyard.
She said the attack happened as she was changing and getting ready to leave.