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Jury to return next week in case of accused Red Line rapist

John Hicks (D.C Department of Corrections/ABC7)

A Montgomery County jury went home for the holiday weekend Friday night without reaching a verdict in the case of a man accused of rape on Metro’s Red Line.

The most serious charge jurors will consider against 41-year-old John Prentice Hicks, of Northeast D.C., is first-degree rape. He is also charged with first-degree sex offense and first-degree assault.

The crime happened on April 12, 2016. Riders were outraged not just by the crime, but by the fact Metro didn’t tell the public about it until ABC7 News broke the story more than a month later. The outcry led Metro to change its policy on reporting crimes.

During closing arguments Friday the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office told jurors it had proof beyond a reasonable doubt of Hicks’s guilt.

The state pointed to DNA, surveillance and Metro SmarTrip card evidence that all point to Hicks. Prosecutors also made the point that the victim had identified Hicks as her attacker.

But the defense countered that Hicks does not match the initial description given to police by the victim. The defense also said police focused on Hicks as a suspect too quickly and said the general attitude was “a black man will do.”

According to court records, the victim had been sleeping on a northbound Red Line train during the mid-morning. After she woke up around Fort Totten or Takoma, the records say Hicks approached her and asked if she had a boyfriend and was going all the way to Glenmont.

At the Forest Glen station, the court records indicate Hicks pulled a knife and then performed an act the state maintains meets the definition of first-degree rape. He then allegedly forced her to perform a separate sex act. Hicks was arrested later that day.

After he was dismissed Friday night, alternate juror Michael Bonds told ABC7 he had a reasonable doubt about Hicks’s guilt, but if he had gone into the deliberating room he would have wanted to go over the video surveillance and DNA evidence more thoroughly.

He said if that evidence had convinced him Hicks was the attacker, he would have been open to voting him guilty on the sex offense and assault charges, but he said, either way, he didn’t feel the state had proved first-degree rape beyond a reasonable doubt.

Although the original plan had been for the jurors to reach a verdict by Friday, closing arguments went into the evening and the plan changed. Bonds said the jury didn’t feel it would be fair to try to rush a verdict Friday night, and the judge ultimately allowed them to go home.

Because of the Martin Luther King holiday, the deliberations are not scheduled to resume until 9:30 a.m. Tuesday.

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