In jailhouse phone calls that Jacob Ewing knew were being taped, and said so, he repeatedly worried that he’d never see the outside of a cell again: “I’m facing life for being a man whore.”
That’s not a pejorative, for those blissfully unfamiliar with the term. Unlike the various words applied to the female of the species.
And here in Ewing’s immaculate hometown of 3,300, where he was quickly acquitted late Thursday of charges that he allegedly sodomized a seventh grader on the hood of his car when he was 19, the half a dozen rape accusations against the former high school wrestler have inspired all kinds of sympathy, and support that’s expressed in bumper stickers, t-shirts and little yellow “Justice for Jacob” yard signs.
In fact, there’s so much more of an outpouring for Ewing than for his six alleged victims that in this first case, it was hard to find enough jurors who said they thought they could hear testimony against him impartially.
“If she steps out and looks like she’s 18 years old, that’s on her,’’ said one potential juror. “That’s just how I feel about it.” Another man excused from the jury pool said he thought he’d probably have to find Ewing not guilty because the young woman’s father should have kept better track of her, and a woman said it would bother her conscience to judge him. Several people said the victim’s hard home life would factor into how credible they found her.
The defendant, on the other hand, is well known and well liked in town. His Facebook page, featuring various shirtless muscle shots of him, suggests that he shares that view.
Ewing’s grandparents have owned the Holton Farm and Home hardware store since 1973, and everybody seems to think the world of them, too.
“I couldn’t see him actually doing that,” Makayla Boyd, a former schoolmate of the defendant’s, said of the charges against Ewing — aggravated criminal sodomy and indecent liberties.
Boyd is one of many who sees Ewing as “just a very nice guy, very good at wrestling, and they’re a very nice family.”
Whereas no one seems to know the now 16-year-old who lived here for less than a year with her father after the state of Missouri removed her from the Kansas City home of her mother and a stepfather who routinely burned her with cigarettes, tried to drown her in the bathtub and stuffed her mouth with soiled underwear.
On social media, news about the victim-blaming comments from potential jurors in the case drew many responses like, “What’s the matter with Kansas?” and “Why don't the more educated people in urban areas respect us?” and “They don't no better if they did they wood do better.”
Gosh, that’s funny.
Unfortunately, though, the attitude reflected in those remarks is not unique to Kansas, or rural America, or the United States, for that matter: It happens in New York and Pennsylvania and Ohio and Maryville, Mo., and Palo Alto, Calif. where, as you might recall, last year a judge sentenced a former Stanford swimmer found guilty of penetrating an unconscious woman by a dumpster outside a frat party to just six months in jail, and worried aloud about his future.
In her closing, Ewing’s attorney, Kathleen Ambrosio, said her client’s young accuser wouldn’t know the truth if it jumped out of a bush and scared her.
Ambrosio said the young woman was lying when, according to a former friend of the accuser who testified, she at one point bragged that she’d had sex with Ewing. Yet she also made up the whole story two years later to bolster another defendant, the lawyer said.
Because a 13-year-old can’t give consent under the law, any sexual contact would require a guilty verdict. And now that the jury has concluded that didn't happen, prosecutors will try again in those other cases – four other rape charges and one attempted rape charge in three more upcoming trials. None of the other victims is a minor, but I’m going to guess that all of them will be presented as liars, too.