Jury discharged after failing to reach verdict
“We hoped for a better result. We’ll be back to fight these charges — my client is maintaining his innocence,” Mr Morrison said.
Earlier, Mr Sinclair, 23, hung his head in the dock while Mr de Belin, 29, stared straight ahead and sighs could be heard from the public gallery as the foreperson said there was no way the jury could reach either a unanimous verdict or majority verdict.
Asked if, given more time, the jury would be able to come to a decision, the foreperson answered “absolutely not”.
Judge Haesler then made the decision to discharge the jury. The matter will be back in court on Wednesday to determine the future of the proceedings.
Judge Haesler had earlier on Monday encouraged the jury to keep deliberating, saying experience had shown that, despite stark differences in opinions, juries could reach unanimous verdicts when given more time.
With a hung jury paving the way for a retrial, the future of Mr de Belin’s playing career has been cast further into doubt, two years after he was sidelined due to the NRL’s controversial no-fault stand-down rule in which players with serious allegations over the heads are suspended from play.
Mr de Belin and Mr Sinclair both pleaded not guilty to five charges each of aggravated sexual assault over allegations they jointly raped a 19-year-old woman in a Wollongong apartment in the early hours of December 9, 2018, after a night of dancing with her at a nearby nightclub. They claim the encounter with the woman was entirely consensual.
The woman said she had gone up to the apartment to use the toilet – believing it to be a detour for the men to charge their phones before going to another nightclub – before Mr de Belin, naked, pulled off her clothing and forced himself onto her, placing his hand around her throat.
She said Mr Sinclair then joined in.
“They were holding my body up, I was dead inside, I was numb, I was crying, and that’s all I was doing,” the woman said. She went to police on the afternoon following the encounter after being urged to do so by a manager at work.
Mr de Belin told the jury he proposed having a threesome to the woman while at the bar.
“I went to her and said, ‘me, you and Cal,’ and she responded, ‘but you have a girlfriend,’ ” Mr de Belin said. “I responded, ‘I can keep a secret if you can.’ After that she winked back and smiled.”
He denied later forcing himself onto the woman, choking her and ignoring her pleas for him to stop.
The jury heard intercepted phone calls involving both of the men, in which they emphatically denied to each other, family and friends that the incident involved sexual assault. Mr de Belin urged Mr Sinclair in one call to tell the truth if approached by police.
Mr de Belin told 2018 NSW Blues teammate Angus Crichton that his image was tarnished after having a “bun” (a colloquial term in rugby league for group sex) with “some little chick who was hanging around”. He said his pregnant partner, Alyce Taylor, went “skitz” when she found out.
The men also both raised the point that the woman had caught an Uber with them to go back out in Wollongong after leaving the apartment. The woman said she had been unable to get away from the men and had escaped while in the line for Fever, another nightclub.
Mr Campbell attacked several inconsistencies in the woman’s evidence when compared with the objective evidence of the CCTV inside Mr Crown and after they left the venue, which he said corroborated the accounts of other witnesses, including her making a “V” gesture while at the club, signifying oral sex.
To this, she said, “I’m allowed to be a 19-year-old girl.”
During his closing, Mr Campbell told the jury the woman had given 19 false answers when confronted with evidence that a man who lived in the apartment had come to the bedroom door while both she and Mr de Belin were naked.
That man, a school teacher named Troy Martin, initially lied to police, saying he’d never seen what had gone on in the bedroom so as not to blow the whistle on Mr de Belin’s cheating behaviour. He later changed his story to say he saw the woman ask Mr de Belin “who was that?” as he stood at the door.
The woman denied ever seeing another man, but two of her colleagues gave evidence that she had said something about it when she had arrived at work.
Crown prosecutor David Scully said the woman was simply behaving like “a 19-year-old at Christmas time” and she was a compelling witness whose evidence regarding what happened in the apartment the jury could accept beyond reasonable doubt.
The former lead investigator, Detective Senior Constable Shawn Adams, also admitted to scrolling through legally protected messages between Mr de Belin and his lawyer on the footballer’s seized Nokia phone. He then admitted to lying to the court about knowing the messages were to do with the case.
While Mr Scully labelled the attack on the detective’s credibility a “red herring”, Mr Campbell said it was fundamental to the case, which had been prejudiced by the detective’s actions.
He said Mr de Belin had cheated on Ms Taylor but it was not a court of morals.
“This is a criminal court charged with an adjudication by each of you as to whether a grave crime has occurred,” he said.
Angus Thompson is an Urban Affairs reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.