Former Baylor University football player Sam Ukwuachu, convicted last month of sexually assaulting a female Baylor athlete in 2013, is seeking a new trial.
In a motion filed this week, Ukwuachu’s attorney, William Bratton III, of Dallas, alleges several points of error that the motion says show the former Freshman All-American defensive end at Boise State deserves a new trial.
A jury in Waco’s 54th State District Court granted Ukwuachu’s plea for probation, sparing him from prison. Judge Matt Johnson sentenced Ukwuachu to probation for 10 years and jailed him for 180 days as a condition of his probation.
Johnson has not set a date to hear the motion for new trial.
If granted a new trial, Ukwuachu risks his status on probation and again could face up to 20 years in prison.
Bratton alleges in the motion that state prosecutors “repeatedly intimidated” Ukwuachu’s roommate, Ratu Peni Tagive, in an attempt to preclude his testimony.
“The state abused the grand jury process in its attempt to intimidate the witness, Ratu Peni Tagive, by using a grand jury subpoena to compel the attendance and testimony of Mr. Tagive approximately a month before trial and a year after the return of the indictment against the defendant,” the motion claims.
Tagive testified that he was at the apartment during the sexual assault but did not hear the freshman soccer player screaming and yelling “no,” as she testified.
Tagive said in an affidavit accompanying the motion that prosecutors called him a liar and threatened to charge him with perjury.
The motion also alleges that prosecutors could have improperly influenced the jury when Assistant District Attorney Hilary LaBorde “openly berated” Bethany McCraw, a Baylor associate dean, in the courthouse rotunda after her trial testimony “based on the prosecutor’s opinion of Ms. McCraw’s testimony.”
McCraw said she investigated the allegations and found the evidence insufficient to “move forward” with the case. McCraw also misspoke during her testimony, forcing her later to apologize to the jury for her mistake.
“The criticism was such as to cause concern that witnesses in the case, as well as jurors in the case, could openly hear the statements and be influenced as to their participation in the trial proceedings,” the motion says.
Bratton also alleges that the judge erred by limiting cross-examination of the victim about a text message conversation with Ukwuachu before the assault.
In the wake of Ukwuachu’s trial, which received nationwide coverage, Baylor appointed a law professor to investigate how Baylor handled the accusations.
Their investigation is ongoing.