A Charleston County jury Thursday found pro football player Jarriel King and a friend not guilty of drugging a woman and raping her two years ago in a North Charleston apartment.
King, 27, and his friend Arthur Lee Denson-Holmes, 28, both faced charges of first-degree criminal sexual conduct.
King starred as a lineman for the University of South Carolina and North Charleston High School prior to joining the NFL. He played for the Seattle Seahawks until his arrest in 2012.
In February of that year, a woman reported to police that she drank alcohol and smoked marijuana with King and Denson-Holmes before heading to Blue Magic nightclub on Ashley Phosphate Road. The group later returned to King's apartment and the woman ended up staying the night, authorities said.
During Thursday's closing arguments, prosecutors and defense attorneys both acknowledged that the men had sex with the woman that night. Their arguments differed, however, on whether the act was consensual.
"If she consented, then game over, not guilty," defense attorney Chris Murphy argued. He added that no signs of force or resistance were found on the woman's body.
A second defense attorney, Jason King, suggested that the woman may have concocted the accusations in order to get her hands on the football player's money.
"She sought him out. He doesn't need to seek her out. He's an NFL player, he has friends. ... It was her idea. She asked to spend the night," he said.
Ninth Circuit Assistant Solicitor Timmy Finch told the jury that King and Denson-Holmes drugged the woman's drink and ignored her cries for them to stop the sexual assault.
The prosecution also displayed a text message sent from King's cellphone at 4:20 a.m. the morning of the incident, that said, "Let's get her sleepy."
King later sent the woman a text to apologize for anything that might have happened to her, Finch argued.
A drug often used in sleeping pills and cold medicine was found in the woman's system, according to blood tests taken the day after the alleged assault. An expert witness called by the defense earlier in the week, however, testified that the level was too low to have been ingested the night she and the men had sex.
The prosecution countered the theory during closings, saying the woman had only sipped a fraction of her drink before noticing its strange taste. She reported feeling "lifeless" after consuming the beverage, authorities said.
The defense may have suggested that the woman wanted what King had, Finch argued, but, really, "it was the other way around. They wanted what she had. The most telling thing was that text, 'Let's get her sleepy.' "
A jury deliberated for about three hours before finding King and Denson-Holmes not guilty of the charges against them.
"We're pleased with the judicial process. We knew that they were not guilty all along, which is why the jury took such little time to come back with a verdict," Murphy said after the verdict was announced.
Both men faced up to 30 years if convicted.
Reach Christina Elmore at 937-5908 or at Twitter.com/celmorePC.