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Former St. Louis police officer found not guilty of rape

The verdict came down after a little more than an hour of jury deliberations.

ST. LOUIS — A St. Louis jury found former St. Louis Metropolitan police officer Torey Phelps not guilty Thursday of raping a former colleague while she was unconscious.

The jury of eight women and four men deliberated for a little more than an hour before returning its verdict.

“I just get to have my life back,” Phelps said outside the courthouse. “I lost three years of my life that I never get back.

“Now, I could just live again. I can leave the state, I can be around my son and do things, take him on vacations and actually enjoy life. I’ve had to go to sleep every night thinking about this going the wrong way because some people told lies and just wasn't being honest and things weren't done correctly. So now, I’m going to start my life over.”

Phelps was one of two officers accused of forcible rape dating to 2009.

During the trial, prosecutors argued Phelps and Lafeal Lawshea worked together to drug and abuse their victims.

The victim Phelps was charged with sexually assaulting was a fellow officer at the time she said he drugged and raped her. She said she had gone with Lawshea and Phelps to the Bottoms Up strip club in East St. Louis in 2010, accepted a drink from Lawshea and has few memories of what happened to her after that other than waking up to Phelps raping her.

She told the jury Lawshea was in the room, and she remembered turning to him and saying, “You’re just going to let him do this to me?”

Former St. Louis Police Sgt. Heather Taylor, who is now the Deputy Public Safety Director for Mayor Tishaura Jones, also took the stand in this trial in support of the alleged victim.

Capt. Latricia Allen did as well.

Phelps’ attorney Scott Rosenblum pointed out several inconsistencies in the woman’s story, noting she said Lawshea was in the room while she was getting raped sometimes, and other times, she said he wasn’t.

Rosenblum also questioned why the victim waited so long to report the assault.

Assistant Circuit Attorney Jeremy Crowley argued sexual assault victims often don’t report their assaults, and that the alleged victim’s story was consistent.

“Her memory became essentially Swiss cheese after something was put in her drink,” Crowley said.

Crowley said the alleged victim rejected Phelps’ previous advances, including the time he complimented her feet.

“He was planning to have sex and this was the mechanism by which he was going to do it,” Crowley said of the alleged plot to drug the victim. “She did report it.

“She reported it to her husband, her partner and Heather Taylor, who told her to report it to Internal Affairs. This victim was let down by the system and her coworkers. Her fellow officers called her a snitch and her commander told her nothing would come of it.”

Rosenblum noted how the victim did not report it to her then live-in girlfriend, and showed social media messages in which the alleged victim asked Phelps to borrow a phone charger from him after the alleged assault.

“Rumors began to spread around the department about a threesome, and she used the words, ‘anger,’ ‘rage’ and ‘humiliation,’ to describe how she felt and it was only then that she said it was a rape,” Rosenblum told the jury during closing arguments. “There are real victims of sexual assault, (the alleged victim) is not one of them.

“There are also real victims of false allegations. Torey Phelps is one of them.”

Rosenblum also questioned why Lawshea would have to drug the victim to have sex with her given that the two had a consensual sexual relationship going on at the time.  

He said the alleged victim didn’t report it until Taylor told her if she didn’t report it to Internal Affairs, Taylor would do it for her.

Crowley suggested Phelps and Lawshea started the rumors about a threesome with the alleged victim, “To get out ahead of it.”

“She was angry because no one was believing her,” Crowley said.

Ultimately, the jury did not agree.

Phelps tearfully embraced friends and family members in the court.

The alleged victim and her supporters were not there for the verdict.

Phelps said he was fired from the St. Louis Police Department about three months ago due to the charges.

Now, he wants his job back.

“I mean, that's what I did my whole life, I mean, that's all I know,” Phelps said. “I've been doing it since 2008, so I would like nothing more than to get my job back. That's what I know how to do and it is what I do. And I'm good at it.”

Lawshea is expected to go to trial in February.

This is a breaking news story. 5 On Your Side will update as more information becomes available.

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