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Laurelwood rape charge dismissed
Alleged victims statements were inconsistent, DA says
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Saying they didn’t have evidence to prove the charge beyond a reasonable doubt, prosecutors dismissed a rape charge brought in January against a man accused of sexually assaulting a fellow patient inside the Laurelwood mental health and substance abuse center.

Kevin Jay Norman, 41, was arrested Jan. 30 following an investigation by Gainesville police into allegations made by two patients at the Wisteria Drive facility. A 19-year-old woman and a 31-year-old woman came forward to report being sexually assaulted by the same man inside Laurelwood on Jan. 10 and Jan. 11.

Gainesville police were only able to substantiate the 19-year-old woman’s claim, a police spokesman said in January.

Norman, who was being treated at Laurelwood for an undisclosed mental health condition, was transferred to another hospital following the allegations and was arrested on a rape charge at his Athens home Jan. 30. He spent more than five months in the Hall County jail.

District Attorney Lee Darragh, on the recommendation of an assistant district attorney, signed the notice of dismissal June 17 and it was filed in the Hall County Clerk of Court’s Office a week later, though the document did not appear on the county’s computerized court records system until recently.

In the dismissal notice, Darragh wrote that the alleged victim, who also was being treated for mental health issues, exchanged notes with Norman in which Norman "discussed (his) desire to have sex with the victim."

Darragh wrote that some of the woman’s statements were inconsistent over the course of several investigative interviews.

"One of the specific inconsistencies is whether she ever made any statements to the defendant at the time of the rape, or whether she did anything affirmative to communicate her lack of consent," Darragh wrote.

The prosecutor noted that while "it is not necessary that a victim verbally indicate lack of consent, the state is concerned that there may be evidence indicating consent was previously given, and was never revoked."

Prosecutors also noted that an examination of the woman did not yield DNA evidence that would have substantiated some of her specific claims.

Darragh wrote that prosecutors met with the victim, "who expressed concerns about the case."

"In no way does the state find the victim is intentionally misleading or misrepresenting the evidence," Darragh wrote. "The state has concerns that some inappropriate sexual conduct or behavior took place, and that the victim was upset and victimized by what happened. But regardless of that fact, the state will not be able to prove the elements of rape beyond a reasonable doubt, even though there was probable cause for the warrant to be issued."

Norman was released from jail last month.

Reached this week, Darragh added, "the case was investigated thoroughly and well by the investigating officers and my staff, and evaluated correctly."

A civil suit against Laurelwood and its operator, Northeast Georgia Health System, remains pending in a separate, unrelated sexual assault case at Laurelwood.

The family of 13-year-old girl is suing over a November 2006 incident in which 16-year-old was charged with raping her inside a bathroom at the facility. The charge was later reduced to statutory rape.

Officials with Northeast Georgia Health System and attorneys for the girl’s family have declined to comment on the suit.