WALLACE — Following a shorter than anticipated trial, a Shoshone County jury unanimously found Caleb Hill guilty of rape on Wednesday.
Charges were filed by the Shoshone County Prosecutor’s Office against Hill, 29, of Osburn, in July 2017 for events that occurred between him and an adult female four years ago.
Based on council arguments and witness testimony heard during the two-day trail over June 11-12 at the courthouse in Wallace, Hill is believed to have committed the crime following a night of drinking on Sept. 24-25, 2015, with his then-common law wife, Brenda Kemp and the victim in this case.
The female victim was reportedly having marital problems on Sept. 24 and to blow off steam, she joined up with Kemp and Hill at their house in Osburn that night to drink.
During the night and following morning, the trio drank at the house, the Midway bar in Osburn and then again back at the house.
Between the beverages available to her at the home, in the car used to get the bar and at the bar itself — it is estimated that the victim had consumed roughly 16-17 shot equivalents of alcohol during the night out (comprised of shots, drinks from the bottle and mixed drinks at the bar).
While he is not believed to have drank as much as the other two, witness testimonies infer that Hill consumed a fair amount of alcohol as well, and smoked a large amount of marijuana during the course of the get-together.
In addition to the alcohol, the victim was also used marijuana that night on top of a sleeping pill she allegedly took before reaching Hill and Kemp’s residence.
When comparing their versions of events from that night throughout the trial, the prosecution and defense roughly match up with each other until the part where the victim went to bed at Hill and Kemp’s residence in the early morning of Sept. 25.
Shoshone County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Benjamin Allen presented the state’s case first on Tuesday and described the victim’s version of events.
Allen argued that after the victim had changed into some of Kemp’s underwear (bottoms), she went and passed out in a bedroom of the home (not Hill and Kemp’s). After that point, she remembers waking up later to use the bathroom, then going back to bed.
Due to the hangover and memory-loss that comes with heavy drinking, it wasn’t until much later in the morning that the victim woke up without underwear (bottoms) on and suspected that she had been raped while she was unconscious. Flashes of memories involving someone on top of her kept appearing in her mind, then after catching the familiar smell of Hill in the morning — she was convinced it was him.
To back up his and the victim’s version of events, Allen presented DNA evidence to the court taken from the victim’s vagina and underwear after she reported the crime. The results of the DNA tests showed the presence of two people — the victim and sperm cells. The DNA analyst handling the tests would confirm in court that the sperm did in fact, belong to Hill.
Defense council Daniel Sheckler attempted to discredit the prosecution’s case any way he could, but mainly by casting doubt on the victim’s story and her level of intoxication with the ultimate argument that the sex was consensual.
While on the witness stand, Kemp stated that the victim’s behavior/mood throughout much of the night was “flirtatious” and/or “horny.” She described various instances at the bar where the victim was flirting with the patrons of the Midway and even asked Hill if he would have sex with her if he were not already with Kemp. Kemp also stated that the victim even propositioned to have sex with both her and Hill later that night back at the house (which they declined).
After establishing her possible willingness to have sex, Sheckler then pushed the idea that Hill was just as hindered as the victim and the victim would not remember giving consent even if she did.
Hill’s version of events after the victim went to bed involve him going to bed afterward and having sex with Kemp, falling asleep, getting up mid-morning to take their dog out, finding the victim struggling to get to the bathroom and assisting her, going back to sleep, then waking up again later on to take the dog out.
While he could account for these events, Hill testified that he could not remember what happened after he assisted the victim with going to the bathroom and could not confirm nor deny that they had sex. He did maintain though that if he and the victim did have sex, it would have been consensual.
Sheckler and his client contributed the memory loss to the night’s drinking and smoking and a condition that Kemp claims Hill has in which he masturbates in his sleep.
In closing statements on Wednesday, Allen put to rest these possible doubts with an effective demonstration.
To give the members of the jury an idea of how much alcohol the victim had consumed that evening in 2015, Allen set up 17 separate plastic shot glasses and filled each one with water from a glass jug. When finished, he showed the empty jug to the jury to signify the victim’s mind and thinking capacity before the night of drinking — clear and unhindered.
Allen then proceeded to pour each water-filled shot (representing actual alcohol) back into the jug as he recounted the events of that alcohol-filled night and morning (this being on top of other substances taken).
“You’ve got to hear the testimony from the victim,” Allen said to the jury. “You got to hear that not only was no consent given, but even if consent was desired at any point ever, this (points to the full water jug) rendered her incapable of even being able to give that consent. After 16 to 17 shots of alcohol, mixed with some sort of sleeping pill she was given, mixed with potentially some recreational marijuana use, (the victim’s name) was incapable of resisting a sexual advancement from one, Caleb Hill.”
He closed his argument with the fact that DNA evidence concluded that Hill did indeed have sex with her.
Sheckler then addressed the jury and stressed that the burden of proof of a crime lies with the state, not the defense.
With this in mind, he brought up the victim’s substance use (questioning her memory), her supposed flirtatious nature (insinuating consent) and the fact that no injuries were found in her vaginal cavity upon examination (stating that if consent was not given or a willingness was not there, she would have exhibited cuts or bruises in that area as a result of being unable to self-lubricate).
All of these points were meant to cast doubt on the state’s arguments.
After deliberating for roughly 30 minutes though, it was clear that the jury was not phased by Sheckler’s argument, as each member found the defendant guilty of the crime.
Hill was denied bail and immediately taken into custody by the Shoshone County Sheriff’s Office following the verdict.
His sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 4 at the courthouse in Wallace.
Allen, who spoke with the News-Press after the trial, could not reveal what kind of sentence the state will be pushing for until after it has received Hill’s PSI (pre-sentence report), but knows what factors will be guiding that decision.
“Under Idaho case law, a sentence for a crime is designed to accomplish a number of objectives. The primary being the protection of society. The related goals that can also be accomplished in a case are specific deterrents, general deterrents, rehabilitation of the defendant and retribution. In this particular case, I certainly hope that the sentence given out accomplishes all of those goals, but in particular due to the nature of this crime … it sends a message to the public that this type of conduct is not OK.”
Idaho Code 18-6104 states that “Rape is punishable by imprisonment in the state prison not less than one (1) year, and the imprisonment may be extended to life in the discretion of the District Judge, who shall pass sentence.”