ONAWA, Iowa -- An Onawa teen could face up to 30 years in prison after a judge found him guilty of sexually assaulting two girls.
District Judge Zachary Hindman ruled Jay Lee Neubaum guilty of three counts of third-degree sexual abuse for raping and assaulting one of the girls and raping the other.
However, Hindman found Neubaum, 19, not guilty of seven other counts of third-degree sexual abuse that alleged he had sexually assaulted five other girls.
"Evidence presented at trial by the state leaves the court with a reasonable doubt on each of those counts," Hindman said Friday as he read portions of his verdict in front of some of the girls, their families and supporters in Monona County District Court.
Some of the families and the girls left the courthouse in tears, appearing shocked by the ruling. None of those present, or their families or supporters, wished to comment, a victims advocate said.
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Monona County Attorney Ian McConaughey also declined to comment until Neubaum's sentencing, which will be scheduled at a later date. Each of the three charges of which Neubaum was found guilty carries a 10-year prison sentence.
Neubaum was charged with sexually assaulting six of the girls and forcing sexual contact with the seventh from August 2019 through March 2020 in and around Mapleton, Iowa, where Neubaum attended school. At trial, the girls, who ranged in age from 13-16 at the time the alleged incidents occurred, described how Neubaum forced himself on them. Neubaum denied the allegations.
Neubaum waived his right to have a jury hear his case, and Hindman presided over his three-day trial in December.
Hindman said that in the cases of the three guilty verdicts, the victims provided credible trial testimony and details of their accounts of the assaults "make intuitive sense," Hindman said. Neubaum's semen was found on the blanket of one of the victims, consistent with her testimony.
At trial, McConaughey had argued the alleged assaults all followed a similar pattern, and each of the girls described how Neubaum got them alone, started kissing them against their will, pushed them down, forcibly removed their pants and underwear and sexually assaulted them.
During her closing arguments at trial, Neubaum's attorney, Theresa Rachel, said the girls and other witnesses gave conflicting or inconsistent testimony, suggesting that one of the girls may have persuaded the others to make up their stories.
Hindman said he did not find the girls colluded against Neubaum. But the judge agreed there were numerous inconsistencies in the testimony and statements given by the girls and other witnesses.
"The question here is not whether the court suspects, or even strongly suspects, that Neubaum committed the offenses alleged in these counts," Hindman said in his 74-page ruling. "Rather, the issue that the court must resolve is whether the state has proven that he committed those offenses, and has so proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
"... aspects of Neubaum's defenses to these charges ... are sufficient to leave the court with a reasonable doubt about each of those counts," Hindman said.
Neubaum was not personally present at Friday's hearing but participated via video from the Anamosa State Penitentiary, where he is serving a 50-year prison sentence for second-degree murder for the Jan. 31, 2020, shooting death of 16-year-old Joseph Hopkins in Mapleton. A Monona County jury convicted him of the crime in May 2021.
Hopkins, of Mapleton, was shot once in the forehead with a 12-gauge shotgun while he, Neubaum and two other teenage boys were working on a demolition derby car in a garage at the home of Neubaum's grandmother, with whom he was living at the time.