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HUNG JURY: No verdict reached in trial of man accused of raping family member

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ST ANTHONY — The jury was hung after nearly five and a half hours of deliberation in a case involving a Utah man accused of drugging and raping an adult female family member.

District Judge Darren B. Simpson presided over the court throughout the trial. Jury deliberations began mid-afternoon Wednesday and concluded at 9 p.m. No details were available about why the jury failed to reach a verdict.

Jacob Oberg, 26, was accused of one count of rape after an incident on a camping trip in Island Park in June 2017.

During the first day of trial, the victim gave testimony about being raped and drugged, and recounted the events reported in earlier police reports. The victim stated throughout her testimony that she did not want a sexual relationship with Oberg.

Throughout day two of the trial, Oberg, represented by defense attorney Challis McNally, brought a handful of witnesses to the stand.

Oberg did not give testimony at his trial.

There were two other people with Oberg and the victim on the trip — his friend and his friend’s young son.

Eric Gavin, the friend, gave testimony regarding the locations where the group traveled.

Jeanette Farnsworth, Oberg’s mother, also gave testimony for the defense.

As she walked into the courtroom, Oberg had a huge grin and said, “Hi, Mommy, I love you,” to which she replied, “I love you too.”

Farnsworth claimed the female relative accusing Oberg of rape had been a habitual liar for as long as she could remember.

She also testified, in tears, that the accuser is not truthful about a lot of things. When asked by Fremont County Prosecuting Attorney Marcia Murdoch if she was here to protect her son from going to prison, she said no.

Micheal J. Mitchell, a convicted felon who was in the Fremont County Jail with Oberg, said he was close to Oberg at first. Oberg told Mitchell he was there for stealing firewood but later Mitchell learned Oberg was actually being held for raping and drugging a relative.

Mitchell testified about what Oberg had told him one day in jail: “I took advantage of her, and who cares? I gave her some drugs to loosen her up.”

In jail, Oberg also showed Mitchell photocopies of Snapchat messages between him and the relative, asking Mitchell what a jury would think when they saw them.

Several of the messages were about the family member confronting Oberg about the alleged rape.

“Did you wear a condom that night in Yellowstone?” she asked in a Snapchat. Oberg responded he had.

Mitchell paused in his testimony and said, “It’s probably one of the worse things I’ve ever read,” when referring to the Snapchat messages.

Prosecutor Murdoch repeatedly referred to the Snapchat messages between Oberg and the woman where they discussed the sexual encounter afterward.

In the Snapchat messages, Oberg replied, “Ok sorry that I went too far, I was drunk, I know that is no exvuse (sic).”

In her closing statement, Murdoch asked the jury why would the defendant ever need to apologize if he didn’t rape her?

“He wouldn’t,” Murdoch told the jury.

She reiterated that the victim made a clear statement throughout her testimony that she did not want a sexual relationship with Oberg. In the trial and preliminary hearing, she also recounted telling Oberg no during the encounter and asked why he was doing this to her, Murdoch said.

McNally, the defense attorney, had previously told jurors Oberg was on trial for rape, not incest. In her closing statements, McNally said the only evidence for rape was the family member’s accusations.

“I don’t think this has been proven without reasonable doubt,” McNally said.

At a status conference Thursday, it was determined the state will retry Oberg on Jan. 8, 2019. Oberg is still being held in the Fremont County Jail.

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