[Mark Busch - firstname.lastname@example.org]
(Caption: Brenton Cleveland hugs his mother, Jennifer, after Chief Judge Robbin Stuckert's finding of not guilty Thursday at the DeKalb County Courthouse, in the first of two criminal sexual assault cases against him.)
Cleveland took advantage of both girls who were drinking at Cleveland's birthday party on May 14, 2016, Stuckert said, but the state failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that an assault occurred.
"This should not send the message to you, Mr. Cleveland, that your acts were appropriate," Stuckert said before delivering the verdict. "Because they were not. Nothing you did that night was appropriate."
Stuckert said people are victimized in the U.S. every day, victims' recollections are not great when alcohol is involved and that her verdict was not meant to discredit those who indeed are sexually assaulted. But, she said, text messages and witness testimony from other partygoers and another victim, a then-16-year-old girl, showed many inconsistencies, including whether there was a struggle or if the victim called out her ex-boyfriend's name.
"The evidence, the testimony is troubling to the court on several bases," Stuckert said.