COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Ohio State fullback Roman Bates lowered his head and wept Wednesday after a Franklin County Municipal Court jury acquitted him of misdemeanor charges of assault and sexual imposition.
The jurors deliberated for 2 1-2 hours before finding the 20-year-old OSU junior from Memphis, Tenn. innocent.
He had been accused of grabbing the breast and pelvic areas of a 19-year-old Worthington, Ohio woman and then striking her, knocking her to the ground, when she demanded to know his name.
During a four-day trial, Bates' attorney put a string of character witnesses on the stand to testify for the player.
One of them was OSU Coach Earle Bruce who told the jury that he, the father of four daughters, would take Bates 'into my home as a son.'
'I've been praying,' a weeping Bates said after the verdict was read. 'I'm ready to live my life now the way I should be. It's over.'
John Zonak, Bates' lawyer, said he believed Bates' testimony convinced the jury of his innocence. Bates testified in his own behalf Tuesday.
'I think Roman won his own case,' Zonak said. 'The jury believed in his honesty and innocence.'
Bruce was unavailable for comment following the decision, but Zonak said the coach probably would hold a news conference to announce whether Bates would be permitted to play in the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day.
Bates voluntarily withdrew from the team after charges stemming from the Nov. 3 incident were filed.
Zonak blamed Bates' status as a football player for the OSU police department's eagerness to press charges.
'If it hadn't been Roman Bates, charges never would have been filed. If it had been anyone other than Roman Bates, we wouldn't be sitting here,' Zonak told the jurors in his closing arguments.