An ACT Supreme Court jury has cleared former Labor party staffer Alexander Matters of sexual assault charges against a fellow Australian National University student.
- The woman accused Mr Matters of raping her while they were in a so-called “friends with benefits” relationship
- She said media reports about Mr Matters prompted her to go to police
- An ACT Supreme Court jury delivered a not guilty verdict after a short deliberation
Mr Matters, 21, was charged with rape and committing an act of indecency in 2021.
The court heard he and the alleged victim had been in a so-called “friends with benefits” relationship, which had continued for months after the alleged assault.
The jury heard the woman had come forward with her complaint after hearing Mr Matters had been charged with sexually assaulting another woman in 2021.
That charge, which was later dropped, resulted in Mr Matters being sacked from his job at the office of federal Labor MP David Smith.
Text messages read to the court showed her friends had expressed alarm when they saw media reports about the initial allegation.
One friend sent a text which said, “F***ing hell. Have you seen this?”
The texter then asked the woman if she was okay.
“I’m not ok. I slept with him multiple times … I don’t know if I got raped,” the woman had replied.
She also sent a message to her godmother saying she had been sleeping with the “guy who was charged with rape”.
“I think I may have been raped too. I don’t know,” she said.
“Did you have this feeling before this came up?” her godmother asked.
“Yes I did,” she responded.
But Mr Matters’s lawyer Steven Whybrow put to the woman that she was worried about her reputation as a campaigner against sexual violence, and argued that had been what drove her to make a complaint.
The specific allegation was that in May 2021 the woman had consented to sex with Mr Matters, but withdrew consent when he hurt her.
Mr Matters said he stopped but the woman said he did not.
Texts, audio messages presented to jurors
Much of the evidence in the case came from text messages between the pair, and between the woman and her friends.
Two audio messages were also played to the court, in which, on the day after the alleged rape, the woman asked him for sex.
“F*** me Daddy,” she texted in the first.
“I want you to f*** me so hard,” she wrote in the second message.
The woman, who gave evidence from a remote room, could be heard crying when the audio messages were played.
She told the court she had been drunk and not in a good space.
Mr Matters questioned her about the messages at the time, sending a shocked face emoji, and accusing her of being cheeky.
The woman rejected Mr Whybrow’s suggestion that the messages indicated the incident the night before had been consensual.
The jury retired late on Thursday, before the Easter break.
Mr Matters breathed a sigh of relief as the two not guilty verdicts were delivered before lunchtime today.
After the verdicts, Mr Matters’s lawyer issued a statement questioning why the case was pursued.
“Mr Matters welcomes the verdict and would like to finally be able to move on with his life,” Mr Whybrow said in a statement.
“We wrote to the [ACT Director of Public Prosecutions] before this trial, pointing out all the problems in this case, with a view to avoiding these two young people having to go through this traumatic experience unnecessarily.
“This was a case that did not need to proceed to trial.”