Thursday, September 2, 2010

Rape charges dismissed after additional evidence disclosed by defense last week

COURTHOUSE — Newly-revealed evidence, which some called “a smoking gun,” has resulted in rape charges being dismissed against a Rosemont man in connection with his sexual encounter with an aspiring model in Upper Merion.

Daimon C. Parrish, through his lawyer, James P. Lyons, presented Montgomery County prosecutors with additional evidence late last week, which prompted prosecutors on Monday to tell a judge they will not move forward with any sexual assault-related charges against Parrish, whose trial was slated to begin this week.

“Evidence came to light late Friday evening that made it impossible for the commonwealth to meet its burden of proof at the time of trial. This evidence suggests that the crime of rape, or any sexually related charges, was not committed,” explained Assistant District Attorney Samantha Cauffman. “After reviewing this new evidence and speaking to (the woman) about the new evidence, I am convinced that a sexual assault did not occur.

“We are ministers of just. We are out to convict those that commit crimes in our county. We are not about convicting innocent people,” Cauffman added.

Neither Cauffman nor Lyons would reveal the exact nature of the new evidence.

“It was evidence that was of such a nature that it brought into question whether this was forcible rape or consensual,” Lyons claimed.

The new evidence was not specifically identified in court.

“It was the correct decision. It was a courageous decision, frankly,” said Lyons, praising prosecutors for dismissing the sexual assault-related charges against Parrish, given the new evidence. “The district attorney’s office seeks justice and not convictions and that’s to their enormous credit.”

Parrish, 36, of Hickory Lane, still faces a felony charge of criminal trespass, with which prosecutors alleged he entered Progressive Rehab on West DeKalb Pike in Upper Merion, where his encounter with the woman occurred, without permission from the owner.

Parrish, who has previous convictions for indecent exposure in Delaware County and disorderly conduct in Chester County, will address the remaining charge on Tuesday before Judge William J. Furber Jr.

Prosecutors were prepared to begin selecting a jury for Parrish’s alleged rape trial Tuesday. In court, Cauffman indicated she was made aware that Lyons was in possession of the new evidence for about two months.

“I was shocked because it went against all my impressions of the case,” said Cauffman, recalling learning about the new evidence. “I was very disappointed that the defense had this smoking gun and waited till the eve of trial to present it to me.”

Cauffman claimed the defense team’s delayed production of the “valuable piece of evidence” wasted prosecutors’ time, county tax dollars and judicial time.

“All of us worked very hard on this case, preparing it for trial, when he had a smoking gun that he sat on for two months that ultimately proved his client’s innocence with regard to sexual assault charges,” said Cauffman.

Lyons conceded he possessed the new information for about two months.

“For strategic reasons and to better the interests of my client I decided that I would hold onto it until I felt it was appropriate,” Lyons explained. “It’s my obligation to represent him as zealously as I can within the confines of what’s proper and lawful. It was my opinion, after I thought about it long and hard, that to take the course of action which I took, would best serve that oath. That’s why I did it.”

Parrish has been in jail since Dec. 26, awaiting trial on the charges.

“I think at this point, my client is a little numb because it was such an enormous turn of events. He needs to let this sink in,” Lyons said on behalf of Parrish.

Cauffman said “it’s not likely” the 20-year-old woman will be charged with making false reports, “given the unique circumstances surrounding the case.” Cauffman would not elaborate.

Parrish was arrested last December after the Wyncote woman told authorities she met Parrish through the Web site, where her modeling photos and profile appeared and that she later agreed to have him photograph her. The woman alleged that on Dec. 21 she took a train to Bryn Mawr where Parrish picked her up and drove her to Progressive Rehab, where Parrish formerly worked as a massage therapist, according to authorities.

The woman originally claimed Parrish photographed her and then forced her to have sex at that location, according to court papers.

While Parrish no longer faces sexual assault charges, court records show he has several previous run-ins with law enforcement, including a July 2005 conviction for indecent exposure in Delaware County, where he exposed himself to a minor working at the Radnor Memorial Library. Parrish served a 10-day jail sentence for the offense.

Parrish also pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct in May 2009 after he, “dressed in sheer white spandex,” walked through a library in Tredyffrin Township, Chester County, and exposed himself to library patrons, according to court papers.

In pretrial court papers, Cauffman alleged Parrish kept a computer journal in which he wrote graphic details about wearing mesh shorts or thong underwear that allowed him to easily expose himself to females at libraries, pools and art classes in Montgomery, Delaware and Chester counties.