A D.C. Superior Court jury yesterday acquitted three men of raping a 20-year-old prostitute after allegedly dragging her from the street into a van and taking her to an abandoned building.
The jury of seven men and five women deliberated for nearly four hours before returning the verdict in the case, which law enforcement officials called highly unusual because of the reluctance of prostitutes to cooperate with prosecutors and police in any way, even when they are victims of crimes.
The prostitute, whose street name is Angie, testified during the week-long trial that the three men took her to a vacant house in Northeast Washington and repeatedly raped her. Defense attorneys argued, however, that the three men were customers. What occurred last June 28, one told the jury, was "exactly what was agreed upon and paid for."
The three men -- Robert Norris, Willie Royster, and Paul Taylor -- never denied having sexual intercourse with the prostitute. Instead, their attorneys claimed that Angie had concocted the rape story after they refused to pay her more money.
"We had ample material to challenge her credibility," said defense attorney Allen Rugg. "I really do think the case rose and fell on her credibility."
Most of the jurors, seven of whom were male, could not be reached yesterday for comment or refused to be interviewed. One male juror, who declined to be identified, said that the evidence was insufficient for conviction. "It came down to her word against theirs," the juror said.
"It was absolutely on the evidence, and it just wasn't there," said a female juror. She said there was no split between the men and women on the jury. Another juror, however, said there had been some early disagreements.
"The fact that she was a prostitute -- a convicted prostitute -- had a bearing on her credibility," said defense attorney Alan B. Soschin. "But certainly because the jury spent so long deliberating, it shows they properly did not reject the government's case just because she was prostitute."
Attorney Rugg pointed to one incident that he said brought Angie's credibility into question. She had testified that after she was raped, she left a hairpin under the rug in the vacant house where she had been taken. However, the defense showed evidence that the room in question had wall-to-wall carpeting, and that the hairpin was left on top of the rug.
To support the testimony by Angie, who has twice been convicted of prostitution in the city, the government also presented testimony from another prostitute, as well as one of Angie's customers that night and the owner of a bawdy house.
A government prosecutor alleged that the three men thought they would be able to "get away with it because she was a prostitute . . . she wouldn't even report it."
Prosecutors declined to comment yesterday on the verdict. Angie could not be reached for comment.