A 24-year-old Texas man was acquitted Monday in the alleged 2014 forcible rape of a 19-year-old Baton Rouge woman he met on the popular online site Tinder.
Jacob Hirsch Witz would have faced up to 40 years in prison if found guilty as charged by an East Baton Rouge Parish jury, which took about two hours to acquit him. Testimony in the case began last week.
Witz’s attorney, Robby Gill, argued to the jury earlier Monday that the sexual intercourse between Witz and the woman at her Nicholson Drive apartment in July 2014 was consensual.
“Jake’s happy. Thrilled with the verdict. He wants to go back to school and graduate and be a productive member,” Gill said.
Witz said outside state District Judge Richard Anderson’s courtroom that be plans on returning to LSU to complete the 21 hours of course credits he needs to earn his degree.
East Baton Rouge Parish Assistant District Attorney Sonya Cardia-Porter argued to the jury that what Witz characterized as sexual roleplay was rape.
“We believed in our case and believe in our victim,” District Attorney Hillar Moore III, who was out of town, said in an email. “The case was presented fairly and fully. The defendant was well represented. We respect the jury’s decision.”
The central issue in the case was whether the sexual intercourse between Witz and the then-19-year-old woman in her bedroom was consensual.
During her closing arguments Monday, Cardia-Porter held up the woman’s torn bra and shirt and said the evidence spoke for itself.
“He raped her and tried to turn it into roleplay,” the prosecutor said.
“This wasn’t roleplay. This wasn’t agreed upon. There was the absence of ‘yes.’ That means there was the presence of ‘no.’ ”
Gill alleged the woman used handcuffs, whips, blindfolds and other items in the past and even whispered, “Let’s try something,” into Witz’s ear after telling him her shirt cost only $2.
Gill, who noted the woman had a boyfriend at the time of the alleged rape, accused the alleged victim of putting on a “show” in court while on the witness stand and shedding crocodile tears.
“When cheaters get caught, they deny, deny, deny,” he told the jury.
Gill said it was the woman who found Witz on Tinder and invited him to her apartment, then into her bedroom.
Cardia-Porter acknowledged the woman was naive and gullible but still the victim of rape.
Inside that bedroom, Cardia-Porter said, the bigger and stronger Witz prevented the woman from resisting his unwanted sexual advances. Witz pulled the woman’s shorts down, and after she pulled them up, he pulled them down again and performed oral sex on her, the prosecutor said.
He later slapped her and raped her, Cardia-Porter argued.
After the alleged assault, the prosecutor said, Witz forced the woman to delete from her phone the text messages exchanged between them, forced her to take a shower while he watched and told her not to tell anyone what had happened.
Cardia-Porter also said Witz deleted his Tinder and Facebook accounts.
Tinder matches registered users who “like” each other’s profile pictures.
After Witz’s arrest, a Tinder spokeswoman said the company was incredibly saddened to hear about the situation and advised users through its website to “practice discretion” when making the decision to meet outside of the online application.
The suggestions included meeting in public places and letting a friend know about any meetings.