Rape case results in hung jury

Wednesday, December 15 2010

Unalaska, AK – Last week, Jason Neil Downard, 29, was found guilty of assault in the second degree.

The case centered around an alleged sexual assault that took place in False Pass in 2008. The case was initially to be tried in Sand Point, but because of difficulty selecting a jury, the trial took place in Unalaska. He was charged with three felonies: assault, attempted sexual assault, and rape.

Downard was found not guilty of attempted sexual assault, but the jury was hung on the rape charge. A status hearing will be held on January 6 in Kodiak to determine whether a retrial is necessary, according to Assistant District Attorney Jason Gist.

Gist says that there are large challenges to trying to trying sexual assault cases in Alaska, which has some of the highest rates of sexual violence in the United States.

"Witness credibility is always a problem. You're talking about two years of time that passed and bringing in witness to recall exactly what they were doing, and what they saw, and what they heard," says Gist.

The assault conviction alone could result in a prison sentence of five to eight years. However, because Downard has already served two years of his sentence, he could be immediately eligible for parole.

Downard had previously served one year in prison in the state of Washington, but was released early in 2005 due to overcrowding, according to the Whatcom County Sheriff's Office.

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