Not guilty: 2 Portland civic leaders fend off charges of sexual assault

By Aimee Green | Oregon Live | March 22, 2019

A judge Friday found two prominent members of Portland's African American community, Charles McGee and Aubre Lamont Dickson, not guilty of sexually assaulting a woman nearly seven years ago in McGee's Southeast Portland home.

As Multnomah County Circuit Judge David Rees read the verdict, relatives and supporters of the two men broke out in tears of joy and relief. Someone yelled out "Justice!" At that, the woman -- Erica Naito-Campbell -- abruptly left the courtroom.

Among those in attendance were the defendants' wives and Naito-Campbell's mother and brother, who hung his head and sobbed.

"I find that I cannot conclude to a moral certainty that the defendants are guilty of the crimes they are charged with," the judge said. He added that this has been "a difficult and stressful trial for all participants."

Moments later outside the courthouse, McGee hugged supporters, then reflected on the past year.

"I'm in love with my family, and I'm in love with my wife. And I apologize to my community," McGee said. "I feel like I let a lot of people down. And I am sad for that. And I have a lifetime to make it up to them. But right now, I'm focused on my family."

Dickson and his attorneys offered no comment.

A few hours later, Naito-Campbell released a statement: "I told the truth, and that truth exists outside the bounds of a courtroom. It exists for those other women who could not come forward publicly. And it exists in the hearts of all survivors who suffer a system that is designed to deny their humanity and their truth."

Naito-Campbell's personal attorney, Steve English, added: " I commend her for her bravery."

The benches in the courtroom had been packed as the seven-day trial delved into the private lives of the well-known Portland families and elicited attacks from defense lawyers about the motives of Naito-Campbell and the reporter for Willamette Week who first published her account last year.

The defense said the case reeked of power and privilege - with Naito-Campbell's mother meeting with Portland Police Chief Danielle Outlaw the day after the story ran in February 2018, according to one of the defense attorneys. A grand jury indictment against McGee and Dickson came three months later.

McGee, 33, was CEO of the nonprofit Black Parent Initiative and running to become a Multnomah County commissioner at the time the story came out. Dickson, 44, was chairman of the Oregon Housing Stability Council and a vice president at KeyBank.

Naito-Campbell, the granddaughter of Portland real estate developer Bill Naito, said she came forward after years of silence because she'd learned McGee was running for office and felt it was her duty to stop him as he tried to rise to a public position.

The men had faced a minimum 8 ? years in prison if found guilty of charges that included first-degree unlawful sexual penetration. But even with an acquittal, their defense attorneys said McGee and Dickson have paid a heavy price: Both men lost their jobs, have endured public scrutiny and have spent thousands of dollars to defend themselves.

The men and Naito-Campbell had met for drinks at the University Club, a private social organization, before heading to a strip club and then McGee's house on May 10, 2012.

Naito-Campbell testified that McGee pushed her into his child's high chair and onto the kitchen floor, where he pulled off her underpants, forced oral sex on her and then tried to rape her. She said she was able to stop him by clamping her hand over her vagina.

She said Dickson later forced his fingers into her vagina and also tried to rape her, but she was able to clamp her hand down again. McGee tried to pull her hand off, she said, but wasn't successful.

Naito-Campbell said she told the men "no" over and over.

McGee and Dickson's defense lawyers painted Naito-Campbell as a liar. But prosecutors said Naito-Campbell had been consistent since "Day One" that she'd been sexually assaulted.

"This case is about two men not taking 'no' for an answer, about two men seeing a woman smaller than them, more vulnerable than them, and taking what they wanted from her," Deputy District Attorney Amanda Nadell said in her closing arguments.

Neither man testified. Their attorneys presented no defense witnesses, but instead tried to undermine the testimony of the prosecution's witnesses, including Naito-Campbell, during cross-examination. The defense attorneys seemed to acknowledge that the men engaged in some sort of sexual encounter, but never explicitly said so.

In court papers filed before trial, prosecutors said McGee admitted in a recorded police interview that he masturbated in a corner because he was aroused while watching Dickson have sex with Naito-Campbell. McGee's recorded statement wasn't aired during trial after Dickson's attorney argued that Dickson should be granted a separate trial if the prosecution presented McGee's account of what he saw.

Although McGee originally denied to Willamette Week that the night in question happened, he later admitted in the recorded police interview and before the grand jury that he lied to the publication, according to court papers. His attorney at the time, Edie Rogoway, said McGee was desperate for his wife not to find out.

Naito-Campbell testified that she did talk to the men that night about her interest in someday having a threesome, but never told McGee and Dickson she wanted one with them. She said she had zero sexual interest in them.

During trial, prosecutors pointed to a key piece of evidence that they said proved something bad happened that night. About a month later, Dickson sent Naito-Campbell an email saying he wanted "to make things right between us" and "I haven't been the same since that night."

Defense attorneys contended Naito-Campbell made up her story of sexual assault because she drank too much that evening. When she later sobered up, she regretted engaging in consensual sexual acts with the men, the attorneys said.

They also said Naito-Campbell never amounted to much after getting degrees from Reed College and Lewis & Clark Law School and sought to launch her writing career and capitalize on the #MeToo movement by publishing a book about that night.

They claimed Willamette Week reporter Nigel Jaquiss helped form Naito-Campbell's narrative because he was eager to publish a splashy story. According to emails acquired by the defense, Jaquiss told Naito-Campbell that he was looking forward to seeing McGee and Dickson in "orange jumpsuits," the defense attorneys said. After the story published, Jaquiss also offered to call the head of the district attorney's sex crimes unit to jumpstart a prosecution and reassured Naito-Campbell by emailing her "You won," the attorneys said.

After the verdict, Willamette Week's news editor, Aaron Mesh, said in a statement: "We are very proud of the reporting Nigel Jaquiss did."

During trial, Stephen Houze, Dickson's attorney, urged the judge not to be swayed by Naito-Campbell's emotional displays.

"She may have thought, 'I can just say these things to the prosecutors and the police and Willamette Week,'" Houze told the judge. "'I'm Erica Naito-Campbell and people will just believe me.' And 'I can cry on command and they will believe me.'"

Christine Mascal, McGee's attorney, told the judge that Naito-Campbell showed the men she was interested in sex by talking about how a threesome was on her bucket list, drinking with them, going to a strip club with them and finally heading to McGee's house with them when his wife wasn't home.

"They didn't get her there to commit crimes of sexual assault," Mascal said. "They were there to continue the party."

Mascal continued: "When she decided the party was over, guess what? It just stopped. ... They realized she wasn't into it, and it stopped."

After the judge announced his ruling, the Multnomah County District Attorney's Office said it disagreed with the verdict and was "very disappointed."

"But we respect and trust the criminal justice process afforded to everyone. We continue to believe the victim in this case who courageously came forward to report what happened to her," the office said in a statement. "Our unwavering commitment of supporting and advocating for survivors of sexual assault remains rooted in our core values. We stand shoulder-to-shoulder with all survivors of sexual assault."