“I ABSOLUTELY SUPPORT the MeToo movement, but sometimes the pendulum swings back too far. It just seems like there’s no longer a presumption of innocence.”
Defense attorney Karl Numinen makes this observation as he sits back, sipping a cup of coffee at Babycakes the day after he won a case in Circuit Court.
A case with all the elements. Sex. Race. A university dorm. Rampant rumors. Conflicting testimony. Shifting stories.
And a case that strangely…and perhaps thankfully…didn’t draw much, if any, press coverage.
Now that it’s over, we feel a little more comfortable telling you about it:
January 2016, Kevin Pearson, a black freshman NMU football player, encounters a white female NMU student on campus after midnight. They’re among friends, they chat with each other, side by side. Maybe engage in a little flirting?
He offers to help her carry some stuff to her room (wink wink, nod nod). She agrees, and lets him into the building with her pass card. They stop off in the study room of the dorm and do some heavier flirting.
Which eventually results in sexual intercourse. But that’s where the narrative diverges. It becomes “he said/she said.”
He insisted the sex was consensual. She claimed, more than a year later, that she had been raped. She had her reasons for delaying pressing charges. But no matter.
Pearson was arrested and jailed for 27 days before he could get out on bail. He was expelled from NMU after a hearing by the university’s Sexual Misconduct Review Board, and lost his partial scholarship.
He returned home to Illinois to live with his family while he awaited trial. He got a job, started classes at a community college, and tried to live a normal life. No luck.
“I lost my appetite, I lost weight, I couldn’t sleep,” he says. “I lost my friends, I lost my reputation.”
And then finally, just this last week, came the trial. It lasted two days. The prosecution presented its witnesses, including the alleged victim. Defense attorney Numinen presented…nobody. No witnesses.
“I had witnesses ready to testify,” he explains, “but we didn’t feel they were needed. We proved our case on cross examination of their witnesses.”
A gamble? He didn’t think so.
The verdict from the 12-person, all white jury came down after less than two hours. Not guilty.
“My first thought was ‘Thank you, God,'” Pearson says. “I’ve been waiting for 15 months to get this behind me.”
He and his parents, who sat behind him during the trial, thanked Numinen and immediately headed home to Illinois. No celebratory dinner in Marquette.
No celebration at all. Just relief. Fatigue. The end of a nightmare.
No one’s claiming the young man was a saint here. Both he and the young lady clearly used extremely poor judgment on that fateful night more than two years ago, and then found themselves entangled in a legal mess. Both of them and their families suffered mightily.
But the jury, after brief deliberations, said not guilty. Unanimously. Not guilty. Kevin Pearson’s record is clean again.
He’ll return to school in Illinois and pursue a marketing degree. His football-playing days are likely over. NMU is in his past, a reminder only of shame and rejection.
“They should apologize to him,” his mother Elayne Pearson says of NMU. “They should rectify this wrong.”
Will they? How can they rectify it? Ms. Pearson said she and her husband haven’t talked about filing a civil suit. At least not yet.
They’re just glad to have their boy, all of 21 years old but now wise beyond his years, back home with them.
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