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Mixed verdict at rape trial

HARRY YANOSHAK COURIER TIMES

The jury decided Joseph Kieffer did not rape his ex-girlfriend, but jurors said he did assault her. He faces 21/2 to 5 years in prison. A Bucks County jury yesterday acquitted a man charged with raping his ex-girlfriend, but found him guilty of simple assault, reckless endangerment and making threats against her.

Joseph Kieffer, 22, faces two-and-a-half to five years in prison in connection with the incident involving Amy Brandt in their Penndel apartment. A rape conviction could have resulted in a 10- to 20-year prison sentence, his lawyer said.

The verdict still pleased Kieffer's family and his lawyer, Michael Parlow, who had conceded throughout the four-day trial that Kieffer did assault Brandt, who was then 19, on May 6 and May 7. The relationship they had was "mutually abusive," but the sex they had was consensual, the attorney maintained.

"The truth finally came out," said Kieffer's mother, Vicki Kieffer of Philadelphia, who attended the proceedings with his sister, grandmother, uncle and a family friend. The group exchanged hugs outside the courtroom and said they thanked God that the truth came out about what had happened between Kieffer and his former girlfriend.

"She lied about being raped," said family friend Rachael Dasch of Feasterville.

Brandt couldn't be reached for comment after the verdict. Neither could county prosecutor Robin Campbell.

Earlier in the week, Brandt, now 20, had claimed that Kieffer pulled a knife from her hands and dragged her across the apartment by her hair. She said he then forced her into the bedroom and ordered her to remove her clothes. Brandt said Kieffer raped her that night and again the following morning. Desperate to escape, she said she jumped out of a second-floor window and summoned help from a motorist.

Blood tests and a physical examination of Brandt confirmed the two had sex.

Yesterday, the jury of eight men and four women returned the verdict after deliberating more than five-and-a-half hours. The group broke from their deliberations twice to have Judge Alan Rubenstein clarify legal definitions. A message left with jury foreman William Rodgers wasn't returned.

"That told me they were really considering the charges ... they weren't going to make a rash decision," said Kieffer's grandmother, Lana Newman of Muncy, Pa.

Kieffer, whose bail was revoked because of the guilty verdicts for assault and because he has a prior criminal record, looked at his former girlfriend as he was led away from the courtroom in handcuffs. He'll be sentenced within the next 60 days.

"I believe many things played into the jury's decision," Parlow said.

Among them were Brandt's decision to use cocaine and marijuana the night she was with Kieffer. Parlow had argued that a drug-induced panic prompted her to jump through the window.

Though she testified that she was afraid of Kieffer, Brandt did maintain a sexual relationship with him and continued to visit him and drive him to the mall even after she supposedly had moved out of the apartment, Parlow said. Also, the nurse who examined Brandt on May 7 testified that she couldn't find injuries to her vaginal area, which would have supported a violent sexual crime, the attorney said.

"Her drug use. Her inability to recall key details. The prosecution's own witness [the nurse]" were factors Parlow believed resulted in the not-guilty verdicts for rape and indecent assault.

Parlow said he believed the jury saw that the woman's testimony and attitude changed when she was asked why she visited Kieffer despite claims the relationship had turned abusive.

Brandt testified that she still cared for him and wanted to see if he had changed. A rape victim wouldn't say that about her attacker, Parlow argued.

Reprinted with permission from Bucks County Courier Times

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