An Arlington Circuit Court jury took only a half-hour yesterday to find Milton N. Bullock not guilty of rape, sodomy and abduction in a case that occupied police and government officials here and in Europe for more than a decade.
Judith Stevens, 35, who went public with the story of her assault years ago in an eventually successful effort to have Bullock returned from Sweden to stand trial, folded her arms over her face and broke into uncontrollable sobs when the verdict of the five-woman, seven-man jury was read.
Between choking sobs, Stevens cried, "Oh, God. Oh, no," as her mother, ex-husband and others rushed to comfort her.
She said later in a telephone interview that the jury had "allowed a criminal to walk the streets." She said she believed that recent publicity about the recantation of a rape accusation by Cathleen Crowell Webb in Illinois may have influenced the jurors. Gary Dotson, who had spent six years in prison, was freed as a result of that recantation.
"All they've heard for the last three weeks is about a woman who said she was lying when she convicted a man eight years ago," Stevens said. "Every jury in this country is going to be reluctant to convict" suspects on a rape charge.
One of the jurors, Alfred Bryan, a South Arlington management consultant, said later the Webb-Dotson case was not discussed in the jury room and did not play a role in the verdict. Bryan said he disbelieved Stevens' story.
Bullock, 34, who fled the country shortly after his arrest in July 1975, packed his clothes into two paper grocery bags following the verdict and walked out of the Arlington Detention Center, where he had been held since last August.
"I'm very happy," he said, hurrying to accompany his attorneys, his mother and his stepbrother out of the police department lobby.
"The fact that [the verdict] came so quickly surprised me. But the most important thing is, I have my life back. I have my family back," he said.
Attempts to locate Bullock, spurred by Stevens' personal crusade to bring him to trial, were complex, protracted and involved at various times Scotland Yard, Interpol, the State Department and the FBI, as well as Arlington police and prosecutors.
While in Sweden, Bullock initially blocked efforts to extradite him, arguing that he could not get a fair trial in the United States because he is black. He was jailed in Sweden on drug charges in 1980, and he was deported last summer.
Bullock first went to court in Arlington in January, but a mistrial was declared after a juror told the judge that, as a white man, he would be uncomfortable as a member of an all-white jury trying a black man.
Stevens, who now works as a marketing consultant and counsels rape victims in Pennsylvania, had testified at that trial, and she testified again this week at Bullock's retrial, at which four of the jury's 12 members were black.
She testified that she was driving home from Georgetown early on the morning of May 15, 1975, when a car behind her flashed its lights several times. Thinking the driver was a friend who had become lost, Stevens testified, she pulled over, then realized that the person was a stranger.
Stevens testified that the man threatened her with a serrated kitchen knife, drove her to a vacant lot in Crystal City, forced her to commit sodomy and raped her twice.
Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Helen Fahey said in closing arguments that Stevens had no motive, after 10 years, to make a false accusation. "She has no motive to be testifying about a rape that didn't happen."
Stevens had testified that she never doubted her identification of Bullock, who was arrested after she spotted him in the Landmark Shopping Center in Alexandria in July 1975.
Bullock did not testify, and the defense presented no other witnesses.
Defense attorney Thomas J. Harrigan urged the jurors to consider the "reasonableness" of Stevens' story as well as her motives, and in closing arguments yesterday, defense attorney Joseph L. Duvall echoed that thought.
"It is incredible to me that any woman driving a car at 3 o'clock in the morning on a dark road, when someone starts flashing his lights, wouldn't put her foot through the floorboards and get to where there was a light," Duvall said.
Dropping his voice to a whisper, Duvall asked the jurors: "Is that in the realm of common experience, what any one of you would do?"
No physical evidence, such as hair or bloodstains, was presented at the trial.
In an hour of tense cross-examination, Harrigan asked Stevens about a "wanted" flyer based on her early statements to police, describing the suspect as being 6-foot-2 and weighing 160 pounds. Bullock is 6-foot-9 and weighs more than 200 pounds.
"The description was such that it was questionable," Harrigan said after the trial. "I don't think [the evidence] was there."
Juror Bryan said that if the jury had known during its deliberations that Bullock had fled the country, the verdict might have been different.
"If this is the way the state prepares cases, we're all concerned, living in Arlington." He added: "The defense, by not presenting a case, won."
"Many of us felt something had happened that night," Bryan said. "We just didn't know what it was . . . . It could have gotten embroidered or elaborated. The mind's a funny thing."
John R. Mueller, another juror, said, "All we have is Mrs. Stevens' say so."