VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – Three days after it began, the jury trial of Benjamin Young, the former owner of Hybrid Air Inc., was declared a mistrial.
43-year-old Young had been accused of sexually assaulting a 19-year-old former employee in August 2022. He pleaded not guilty to all charges. His defense never contested that a sexual encounter occurred, but argued that nothing about the incident rose to the level of criminal wrongdoing.
The court heard closing arguments on the morning of Thursday, Oct. 19, and the jury began deliberating shortly after. At 5:15 that afternoon, the judge continued the deliberations to 9 a.m. the next day, to give the jury more time.
At 10 a.m. on Oct. 20, the judge called the legal teams for the commonwealth and defense back into the courtroom to hear arguments on allowing the deliberations to continue. He ultimately sided with the defense, agreeing that the jury seemed to be at an impasse.
The judge then called the jury back into the courtroom and asked the foreperson if she thought they’d be able to come to a unanimous decision given more time.
“I do not,” she replied. “We have polled constantly and people are sticking to their positions.”
The jury was then released. A few minutes after the judge formally declared a mistrial, the bailiff returned and delivered a message from several of the other jurors to him: they said that it was the foreperson’s opinion that they had reached a deadlock; they hadn’t actually voted on it.
While it may have raised some eyebrows in the courtroom, the judge reiterated that he’d already declared a mistrial.
A hearing date was set for Nov. 9 to determine a new trial date. The Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office says they do intend to retry the case.
Young faced two charges in this trial, both with force enhancements: penetration and sodomy. The jury was given instructions that included being able to downgrade the penetration charge to assault and battery.
It’s unclear what exactly the jurors were divided over. On the afternoon of their first day of deliberations, they asked a series of formal questions to the judge, including requesting the legal definition of consent (the judge said there isn’t one).
At 4:15 p.m., that day, the jury was given Allen Charge instructions agreed upon by both sides, effectively pressuring them to find a way to come to a consensus or risk having to retry the entire case.
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