Orange County

Judge OKs defense request in sexual assault case involving suspended UNC football player Allen Artis

Suspended UNC-Chapel Hill football player Allen Artis, who is accused of sexually assaulting Delaney Robinson, appears in court in Hillsborough Friday.
Suspended UNC-Chapel Hill football player Allen Artis, who is accused of sexually assaulting Delaney Robinson, appears in court in Hillsborough Friday. The Herald-Sun

Over what he said were the prosecutors’ objections, a judge on Friday ruled that lawyers defending suspended UNC-Chapel Hill football player Allen Artis should receive “certain documents” that might bear on his guilt or innocence on charges of sexual battery and assault.

Subpoenas are necessary because the materials in question “are not in the immediate possession of the state,” District Judge Charles Anderson said after a lengthy conference with Artis’ lawyers, Kerry Sutton and Stephen Lindsay, and the two prosecutors, Orange-Chatham District Attorney Jim Woodall and Assistant District Attorney Kayley Taber.

Anderson didn’t go into much detail about what the subpoenas will cover, except to indicate that “photographs” are included.

Talking with reporters afterward, Sutton and Lindsay wouldn’t elaborate, and court clerks noted that the subpoenas don’t become public record until they’ve been served.

But ahead of Friday’s proceedings, Artis’ defense team had said they want the file from the now-complete student-disciplinary process he went through at UNC-CH, and copies of the photographs authorities gave to a lawyer representing Delaney Robinson, the UNC-CH student Artis is accused of assaulting in February 2016.

The lawyer, Denise Branch, and Robinson held a news conference in September 2016 to say that because of official foot-dragging in investigating her rape allegation, Robinson had gone to a magistrate and sworn out a misdemeanor warrant.

During that 2016 news conference, Branch showed reporters a photograph of Robinson that showed her with bruises on her neck. Sutton and Lindsay say she got it from campus police, and that compared to the likely original, it’d been digitally enhanced to present “a more dramatic appearance.”

Friday’s meeting between Anderson and the lawyers is supposed to set the stage for a trial that’s presently scheduled to begin July 18.

Through Sutton, Artis has asked that prosecutors and the court honor his right to a speedy trial.

“Every time that question came up in the conference, I just said no,” Sutton said when asked about the possibility of further delay. “No, no, no, no. July 18th is on the calendar. This has gone on too long. It’s gone on too long. It’s hurting both sides.”

The discussion Friday between the lawyers and Anderson took place entirely behind closed doors, the judge opting to conduct it in his chambers. That left Artis, Robinson and their families out of the loop for long stretches of the morning. Branch, also in the courtroom, was likewise a non-participant for the most part, save for a few minutes when she stepped into a hallway behind it at Woodall’s behest.

Answering a defense motion that sought to rule out the in-court use of the term “victim” to describe Robinson, Anderson ruled that she and Artis are to be addressed by their surnames, “in the manner as we’d refer to someone as Mr. Woodall or Ms. Sutton.”

And in answer to a Woodall motion that invoked the state’s rape-shield statute, the judge said he won’t allow the introduction of any evidence of prior sexual activity involving Robinson and anyone other than Artis.

Anderson didn’t rule on three defense motions that asked him to consolidate the charges, declare inadmissible the evidence campus police gathered and to throw out the case.

The dismissal motion argues that the magistrate who issued the warrant, Jamie Paulen, should’ve recused herself because her ties to a group “involved in supporting alleged victims of sexual assaults” — the Orange County Rape Crisis Center — had left her unable to render a “neutral and detached” judgment about whether there was probable cause to support bringing charges. Paulen is a former board member of the rape crisis center.

UNC-CH’s in-house disciplinary review concluded with a finding that Artis hadn’t violated any campus policy. There’s no dispute that he and Robinson had sex. Woodall has said the case turns on whether these was consent. And alcohol use was a factor.

Anderson said he’d rule July 12 on whether to consolidate the charges. The other motions “are deferred without prejudice at this time.”

Afterward, Sutton said the day’s work had put both sides “much closer” to being ready for a trial. “This turned out as expected,” she said.

Ray Gronberg: 919-419-6648, @rcgronberg